Archive for Thursday, January 1, 1998


January 1, 1998


Southwinds nursing home cannot admit new residents, and it faces possible fines for improper treatment of the elderly.

State health officials Wednesday banned new admissions to a Lawrence nursing home found to have endangered the well-being of residents.

The ban was imposed after Southwinds Rehabilitation and Care Center, 1800 W. 27th, was determined to be in violation of Kansas statutes designed to protect the health and safety of the 59 people living there. Southwinds has a capacity of 75.

Specifically, a series of inspections by Kansas Department of Health and Environment indicated the facility's staff failed to prevent and treat bedsores on the bodies of inactive residents. KDHE said six of 13 residents examined had bedsores.

The agency also charged that Southwinds staff neglected to sufficiently maintain hydration of residents, including that of an individual who had to be sent in mid-December to the emergency room.

In that case, a KDHE report concludes Southwinds "failed to adequately evaluate, assess and monitor this dependent resident's condition change. This failure subsequently contributed to a severe physical deterioration resulting in immediate jeopardy and hospitalization for this high-risk resident."

KDHE's disciplinary action won't allow Southwinds, known as Sterling Heights until October, to accept new tenants until deficiencies are corrected and documented by KDHE.

The state temporarily banned admissions to Sterling Heights in 1994 due to a series of violations, including inadequate treatment of bedsores.

The new state order indicated that failure to correct problems within a couple weeks could result in a civil penalty not to exceed $500 per day for each deficiency.

Southwinds is owned by Ascend Healthcare of Topeka and is managed by Health Prime of Atlanta, which operates facilities in several states.

"We recognize the shortcomings," said Wes Peake, vice president of Health Prime. "Our staff will move heaven and Earth to accomplish the goals needed to be accomplished there."

KDHE, responsible for licensing and monitoring 400 nursing homes in Kansas, imposed a ban on admissions only 13 times last year. Civil fines are more common.

In the past four years, Sterling Heights/Southwinds has run afoul of state regulators a dozen times. The nursing home was fined $800 last year and $1,000 this year for violations that were identified by KDHE and not corrected by the time inspectors returned.

Peake said Kansas regulators had placed Southwinds and other nursing homes in this state under immense pressure.

"They have the least flexible state that we do business in. Other states give you the benefit of the doubt," he said.

Peake said turnover on the 75-member Southwinds staff was in the 200 percent range during the past two years. It's difficult to obtain continuity of care with so many staff coming and going, he said.

In response to staffing problems, Peake said Southwinds hadn't actively recruited new residents since Dec. 1.

"It was a troubled facility when we took over management there," Peake said. "It takes a long time to overcome the stigma -- trying to recruit and retain staff who want to come to work in a building with that kind of reputation."

KDHE continues to examine other complaints about treatment of Southwinds residents. The list includes allegations that staff failed to follow instructions of physicians. In one instance, a doctor insisted a person receive intravenous fluids and be encouraged to drink other liquids.

"The (Southwinds) nurse said the facility staff did not think the resident should have increased fluids," a KDHE investigator wrote.

In addition, reports surfaced that nursing home employees weren't adequately keeping tabs on residents. For example, a Lawrence resident discovered an 87-year-old moderately impaired Southwinds resident wandering down a street. The nursing home didn't realize the person was gone.

-- Tim Carpenter's phone message number is 832-7155. His e-mail address is

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