27 Investigates: What’s behind nursing homes placed on watch lists?

Valley Oaks in East Liverpool was the latest nursing home on a Medicare watch list

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – On Monday, WKBN 27 First News reported that another local nursing home was singled out for poor conditions and putting residents at risk. Since then, many of our viewers have spoken out about the problems nursing home patients face every day.

Jeanine Fox makes sure her father-in-law has a good experience at his nursing home.

“We are there three or four times a week so we are able to bring things to their attention but there’s a lot of family members who aren’t able to go or who aren’t willing to go,” she said.

Fox said she’s filing complaints against the home’s current conditions.

“There’s dried feces on the floor, he gets a liquid feed so that is dried on the medical equipment. I’m not exactly sure what’s on the wall.”

WKBN is not naming the home because government inspectors haven’t found any violations on their regular visits. But accusations like these can land a nursing home in a lot of trouble.

“The majority of complaints we get we are able to resolve,” said Stacey Bettura, a long-term care ombudsman for the State of Ohio.

She is one of the people who advocates for nursing home patients when there are problems — and they’ve heard a lot of complaints.

There have been four local nursing homes on Medicare watch lists in the last three years. Many more complaints are investigated by the Ohio Department of Health.

“We have a robust program but we are not regulators. We’re not the ones making that decision. I would say ODH has very strong surveyors in our area,” Bettura said.

In the region, state inspectors visit each nursing home at least once a year. When there are too many violations, nursing homes can be placed on the Special Focus Facility list.

Valley Oaks in East Liverpool was the latest home on the watch list. It was fined $38,000 for violations last year.

It can be hard for people to find out about these issues.

“I feel like there is not enough information available to the families, to the residents, what’s going on,” Bettura said.

Valley Oaks must either show improvement or it could be forced to relocate its residents. The East Liverpool facility did not respond to messages WKBN left Tuesday or Wednesday.

Fox said she won’t give up on her father-in-law’s facility until she sees improvement.

“For me, this is just as much about my father-in-law as it is everyone else sitting at the facility.”

Two nursing homes in the area were forced to close after bad inspections.

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