2011-02-04 / Top Stories

Pushing Paper Instead Of Residents

By Howard Schwach

The administrator of the Nursing Care Center says it’s all about paperwork and not resident care. The administrator of the Nursing Care Center says it’s all about paperwork and not resident care. The administrator of a local nursing care facility says that the fines imposed on the Lawrence Nursing Care Center last year were more about paperwork and revenue gathering than about patient care.

“We do the best job of any nursing care facility in Rockaway,” the facility’s administrator, Michael Kraus, told The Wave on Tuesday. “The health care field has become all about paperwork and the volume of paperwork we have to file for the state and federal government is unbelievable. Our nurses spend more time on the paperwork than they do on caring for our residents.”

“We are doing a job that nobody else wants to do,” he added. “The families don’t want to deal with them and, for some, they are treated better [at the facility] than they were ever treated out on the streets. For our residents, this is a nice place to be.”

The federal government fined the Lawrence Nursing Care Center more than $19,000 for “substandard care” after an April 2010 visit and audit of the facility, officials say.

The Lawrence Nursing Care Center, located at 350 Beach 54 Street in Arverne, was hit with a fine of $19,532 for several problem areas, including failure to investigate accidents or injuries to patients at the center.

According to Cynthia Rudder of the Long Term Care Community Coalition, a non-profit organization that monitors nursing homes, the state Department of Health is responsible for conducting inspections of nursing homes under it’s contract with the federal government to oversee nursing homes that participate in Medicare or Medicaid. The state can levy state fines or recommend federal fines (which tend to be higher) when violations of minimum standards are found. In this case, the state passed the ball to the feds, who levied the fines.

The Lawrence Nursing Care Center has 200 beds and presently houses 189 residents.

It was cited by the feds in July 2010 for failing to insure each resident’s nutritional needs and for its food preparation.

In addition, the feds admonished the center to hire only those who have no history of abusing, mistreating or neglecting residents and to report all acts of abuse, neglect or mistreatment.

Kraus and his assistant administrator, Raquel Braverman, said that the charges were more about paperwork than about poor treatment of residents.

“There was basically a failure in communication,” Kraus said. “The doctor was on top of caring for the patient [who lost lots of weight and had to be hospitalized], but the doctor failed to sign off on the treatment on paper.”

“The man’s family was surprised by the fine,” Braverman said. “They told us that they were very happy with the care he was getting here.”

Another part of the report dealt with a man who “eloped” from the facility, state-speak for “ran away.”

“The man climbed two gates and walked over the bridge to Brooklyn. He got some furniture and brought it back for his room,” Kraus said. “We can’t stop residents from leaving. We are not a prison.”

“The state is fearful of the feds,” Kraus said. “If you get a good survey [report] by the state, the feds come in and say that can’t be. They go after the state.”

And, while Kraus kept short of saying that the fines are used for a revenue providing mechanism by the state, he did say, “There is a notion that the state needs money, but I don’t know that it’s true that the fines are used to raise revenue. The truth is, everybody gets zinged.”

And, while Kraus admits that “the [negative] report is the report,” he said that he was sad that it appeared in The Wave.

“All of our workers are unionized,” he said. “Most of them live here and the center is their livelihood. Some of them have been here long-term, up to 20 years. They were sad to see the negative report in the local newspaper when the good that they do is never reported.”

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