State: Lebanon nursing home acted improperly by dumping patient at truck stop

News-DemocratOctober 2, 2013 


A Lebanon nursing home acted improperly when leaving a man with health problems in a wheelchair at an Alorton truck stop because he did not submit to a background check, according to a state investigation.

The Illinois Department of Public Health cited the Petersen Health Network, parent company of the Lebanon Care Center at 1201 N. Alton St., with improper nursing care, violation of resident rights and an involuntary transfer.

Greg Wilson, vice president of operations of Petersen Health Care, said in an email Wednesday that the center plans to appeal the state licensure violations.

"The facility continues to maintain that at all times it was in compliance with all state (and) federal regulations and was acting at the direction of the Illinois Department of Public Health in discharging the resident," Wilson stated.

The state did not fine Petersen Health Network or the Lebanon Care Center.

The Department of Public Health investigated complaints that on July 31 the care center left Thomas Hearty sitting in his wheelchair outside the Denny's and Flying J gas station off Illinois 15 in Alorton.

Hearty has a history of diabetes and at least four strokes. He was left there with his clothes in two plastic bags and without his medication or identification after he asked the nursing home staff to take him to the truck stop.

When told of the state violations, Hearty said he agrees with the state's findings.

"They were responsible for my care and my well being and I think they neglected both aspects there," Hearty said.

Wilson said the facility is in compliance with all certification regulations. He is "gratified" the situation was resolved quickly and Hearty chose to comply with the law and return to the center.

The business has until Monday, or 10 days after notice of the violations, to submit a plan to correct the problem or file for a hearing to contest the citation.

Care center officials said employees took Hearty to the Flying J because he asked to go there since it was close to a relative's home.

Wilson said the facility tried repeatedly to get help from Hearty's family to take him somewhere or resolve the situation.

And, Wilson said it would have been illegal to house the 56-year-old man since he refused to submit to a fingerprint-based criminal background check.

State law requires everyone at a nursing home to submit to a name-based criminal background check. Because Hearty has a 1992 felony residential burglary conviction, he also had to do a fingerprint check.

Hearty, known in state reports as "R1," was admitted to the care center on June 26 and submitted to a name-based check. The Illinois State Police notified the care center on July 15 that Hearty had burglary and domestic battery convictions.

The care center did not ask Hearty for a consent form to do the fingerprint check until about a month later. The care center should have arranged for the fingerprint check within 72 hours, the state said in its report.

The care center also failed to do this with another resident at the nursing home.

Hearty has said he refused the check because a nursing home employee loudly discussed his criminal history in front of other residents.

A care center administrator told investigators she went out to the patio to speak to Hearty and whispered to him about the fingerprint check requirement, but Hearty became upset and refused to sign the form.

Without his consent, the care center filed a notice of involuntary transfer or discharge and opportunity for hearing the day they took Hearty to the Flying J.

But the state found: "Based on an interview and record review, the facility failed to justify and give an appropriate reason for an emergency discharge for one of three residents reviewed for pre-admission screening in the sample of three."

The state report also notes that the facility did not say that Hearty was endangering himself or other residents in the facility, or that the facility was not able to meet his needs.

Though the care center is appealing the "Type B" violations, they are required to submit a plan or report of correction.

A type "B" violation, or 10 or more administrative warnings, means that the license holder -- in this case, Petersen -- might not be eligible for a two-year license. They could instead only be eligible for a one-year license.

When Alorton police found Hearty on July 31, more than 20 miles from the nursing home, they sent him to the hospital for a well-being check. Care center officials picked up Hearty the next day and he has remained at the Lebanon facility since then.

"I'm still hanging in there, trying to do the best I can," Hearty said Wednesday. "If I had somewhere to go right now, I would not be here. That's how I feel about it."

Contact reporter Jacqueline Lee at or 239-2655. Follow her on Twitter at

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