Monday, May 23, 2022

Part II: After deaths, citations, Envoy faces repercussions with court settlements

Since 2009, Envoy and the nursing home’s former owner-operator, Ruxton Health of Williamsburg, have paid out more than $1 million in settlements for alleged neglect and malpractice at 1235 Mount Vernon Ave. (WYDaily/Sarah Fearing)
Since 2009, Envoy and the nursing home’s former owner-operator, Ruxton Health of Williamsburg, have paid out more than $1 million in settlements for alleged neglect and malpractice at 1235 Mount Vernon Ave. (WYDaily/Sarah Fearing)

This article is the second in a two-part investigative series about Envoy of Williamsburg. Read the first part of the series here

When Andrea Clarke entered Envoy of Williamsburg to take one nursing home patient to dialysis, she quickly realized something was wrong.

The woman was running a fever, and Clarke, an employee with a medical transport company, recommended the woman go to the hospital. But Envoy told her to transport the patient to a regularly scheduled appointment anyway, Clarke said.

“We made the call to go to the emergency room instead,” Clarke said.

The woman was delirious from fever and went into septic shock after reaching the hospital, Clarke said. The woman lived, although Clarke said it was a close call.

“Had we not made that other decision, she would’ve died,” Clarke added.

Since 2009, Envoy and the nursing home’s former owner-operator, Ruxton Health of Williamsburg, have paid out more than $1 million in settlements for alleged neglect and malpractice at 1235 Mount Vernon Ave.

(Envoy Health Care, based in Maitland, Florida, purchased Ruxton in December 2008, according to the Virginia State Corporation Commission.)

Together, Envoy and Ruxton have settled four of seven wrongful death and medical malpractice lawsuits, with three cases settling for more than $250,000 each, court records show.

A search of civil court records in the Williamsburg-James City County Circuit Court also yields more cases for Envoy and Ruxton than any other Williamsburg-area nursing home.

In one case, a man who alleges he developed severe bedsores after suffering a stroke in 2014 is seeking a $7 million settlement. The case was filed in January 2016, dropped, then re-filed again in January 2018.

Other past settlements include:

  • Roper Houston Jr., $90,000, died after allegedly falling face-first from his bed at Ruxton in 2006.
  • Lorina Wiggins, $340,000, developed severe bedsores after allegedly not being moved from her bed at Ruxton in over a year in 2007 and 2008.
  • Drusilla L. Young, $255,000, died after she wandered into a common bathtub room at Envoy allegedly unsupervised and drowned in 2010.
  • Clyde W. James, $325,000, died after falling from a bathing chair he was allegedly not properly strapped into while at Envoy in 2012.

In the settlement agreements, Envoy and Ruxton did not admit to negligence or malpractice.

Attorneys in several of the cases advised WYDaily that neither they, nor their clients, are permitted to comment on the cases.

A nursing home administrator at Envoy did not return two requests for comment, one of which was Tuesday.

A sign outside of Envoy invites people to apply to work at the nursing home. Since 2009, Envoy and the nursing home’s former owner-operator, Ruxton Health of Williamsburg, have paid out more than $1 million in settlements for alleged neglect and malpractice at 1235 Mount Vernon Ave. (WYDaily/Sarah Fearing)
A sign outside of Envoy invites people to apply to work at the nursing home. Since 2009, Envoy and the nursing home’s former owner-operator, Ruxton Health of Williamsburg, have paid out more than $1 million in settlements for alleged neglect and malpractice at 1235 Mount Vernon Ave. (WYDaily/Sarah Fearing)

Oversight

Whenever a facility fails to meet quality standards, the federal government imposes penalties.

Those penalties can include fines or withholding Medicare and Medicaid funding, or charging fines.

If the nursing home doesn’t correct the problems, Medicare will end its agreement with the nursing home. Depending on the severity of the issue and the number of patients affected by the “deficient practice,” states may also impose their own fines, according to the Nursing Home Compare website.

Kathy Creegan-Tedeschi, director of the Virginia Department of Health’s Division of Long Term Care, said nursing homes also are regularly inspected to ensure they meet state and federal regulations.

According to the health department, federal law does not require facilities to notify residents, families or physicians of noncompliance to state certification standards.

In addition to being inspected by surveyors for Medicaid and Medicare recertification, the Department of Health’s Office of Licensure and Certification inspects and relicenses nursing homes every two years.

“It’s not a simple process, it’s an involved process,” Creegan-Tedeschi said. “You want your nursing home residents to get the best care that is possible. That’s why the regulations are in place.”

Nursing homes are given 45 days to correct citations.

“If they never come back in compliance, then there’s a process where they would be shut down,” Creegan-Tedeschi said.

“It’s very involved to shut a facility down,” she said, adding that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services handles transferring the residents and the shutdown.

“We certainly encourage facilities to correct their deficiencies, and we make sure they’re doing it,” Creegan-Tedeschi said.

Local social services departments are also responsible for investigating reports of alleged abuse at nursing homes, although they do not regulate or inspect the homes.

Wendy Evans, deputy director of social work and community services for Williamsburg Social Services, said she could not comment on whether there are any adult protective services investigations or cases at Envoy because they are protected under law.

If Social Services determines a nursing home patient is a victim of abuse, neglect or exploitation, they will offer services through the Adult Protective Services program. Those services could include monitoring of care plans, monthly check-ins or other oversight, Evans said.

Social services will also pass on information about the complaint, evidence from the investigation and the result of the investigation to a nursing home’s regulatory body, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

“Our main goal is to assist our city residents,” Evans said. “So whatever that takes, we go that extra mile.”

Not alone

While Envoy ranks lowest in Williamsburg-area nursing homes, the facility is not alone in its issues, according to court records.

A local family is suing Williamsburg Landing for $2.15 million in a woman’s fall-related death. In May 2017, a Williamsburg-James City County Circuit Court judge awarded a woman $300,000 after she sued Colonial Manor Senior Living over her mother’s fall-related death.

Other health inspection data on Nursing Home Compare show other local nursing homes have also been cited for health deficiencies. A May 2018 report from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services states “most nursing homes (have) some deficiencies,” with the average being six to seven citations per inspection.

But Envoy, in Clarke’s eyes, has the most room for improvement.

“It has the potential to be so much better,” Clarke said. “It’s heartbreaking because you see these people who are ill and they cannot do for themselves, and this is how they’re living.”

Do you have an experience with Envoy or another Williamsburg-area nursing home you’d like to share? Get in touch with us at info@wydaily.com.

Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing is the Assistant Editor at WYDaily. Sarah was born in the state of Maine, grew up along the coast, and attended college at the University of Maine at Orono. Sarah left Maine in October 2015 when she was offered a job at a newspaper in West Point, Va. Courts, crime, public safety and civil rights are among Sarah’s favorite topics to cover. She currently covers those topics in Williamsburg, James City County and York County. Sarah has been recognized by other news organizations, state agencies and civic groups for her coverage of a failing fire-rescue system, an aging agriculture industry and lack of oversight in horse rescue groups. In her free time, Sarah enjoys lazing around with her two cats, Salazar and Ruth, drinking copious amounts of coffee and driving places in her white truck.

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