“A house of filth, terror and death”

The Chicago Tribune reported the settlement between Maxwell Manor nursing home and whistle-blowers. Maxwell agreed to pay more than $1.6 million to settle a portion of a whistle-blower lawsuit involving allegations of extreme patient abuse and Medicaid fraud. The lawsuit remained under seal until Monday, when the settlement was announced. Under terms of the agreement, the federal government would receive $1 million and the state would get $610,000, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

In settling the federal suit, nobody admitted wrongdoing or accepted responsibility.  Two employees provided evidence that the owners and managers of the nursing home permitted routine sexual assaults, theft and improper medical care that, in some cases, resulted in death, and billed the federal and state government for care that was never administered. Apparently no one is going to jail for this fraud and abuse.

“It was an atrocious case,” said Robin Potter, an attorney for the whistle-blowers, Joyce Toomey, a former facilities program coordinator, and Larry Austin, a former psychiatric rehabilitation services coordinator. “No one exaggerated the conditions.”

The case began in February 2000 when Toomey and Austin filed a whistle-blower lawsuit against owners and operators of the home, which the former workers deemed “a house of filth, terror and death.”  Why did it take 20 years to resolve?

The facility was operated in a physically hazardous manner. According to the suit, chronic conditions included “bulging ceilings, crumbling walls, rodent and insect infestations, pervasive mildew and hazardous fire alarm and electrical systems.”

Managers of the nursing home engaged in a pattern of fraud that included falsifying patient charts to make it appear they were being treated and medicated, as well as failing to report patient accidents, abuse and assaults. In one case, a woman fell into a coma for days before medical personnel were called. She died within days.

“This was not your typical bedsore case,” said Colleen McLaughlin, another of Toomey’s attorneys. “This was much more. This was a hellhole.”