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Get tough on nursing home enforcement

How does an 85-year-old woman strapped into a wheelchair manage to get into a nursing home stairwell and fall to her death? It’s hard to imagine how Juanita Simmons could have opened the door at Midwest Rehabilitation and Respiratory Care in Belleville, navigated through the opening and no one notice. Did an alarm sound? Was she pushed?

Compounding matters, the St. Clair County Coroner’s office said it didn’t even get a call from the center. It found out about the death from a funeral home director.

This isn’t the first troublesome death at Midwest. In 2012, a resident wandered off in winter and was found dead in a culvert. Two months later another man wandered off but fortunately was found unharmed at a truck stop.

Midwest is rated “much below average,” according to the Medicare website. A January report says that 36 health deficiencies were documented in the past year; the state average at nursing homes is 7.3.

But other than report the poor performance, not much gets done to improve conditions. Midwest was fined $28,250 by the federal government in 2012 and $25,000 by the state (reduced from $55,000), but complaints continue to get documented with little or no permanent improvement. Pity the poor residents who are subjected to the “much-below-average” care.

So why don’t these residents go elsewhere? It’s not always that easy to move. That’s why people in nursing homes need the government to not only document problems but advocate for them and demand real positive change. Nursing homes that don’t improve in a reasonable period of time should be closed.

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