Telling the Truth

The Berkshire Eagle reported on the whistleblower at Springside Rehabilitation and Skilled Care Center. Laura Heath claims her wrongful termination was due to reporting unsafe staffing during a COVID-19 outbreak last winter. The state sent in the National Guard to provide care. Low staffing ratios are a problem in nursing homes across the U.S. and create an environment that is ripe for abuse and neglect.

CMS found that call bells went unanswered for long periods and residents with bedsores were left in their waste for up to eight hours because of unsafe staffing. The federal report states insufficient staff members to reposition every resident to prevent pressure injuries, avoid falls, or monitor vital signs. A coronavirus outbreak at the profitable 115-bed nursing home reduced already low staffing levels increasing the neglect. More than 100 COVID-19 cases were reported at the facility, and 16 of affected residents died.

Heath was Springside’s director of nursing. She complained about the under-staffing to facility owner BaneCare Management LLC. They soon fired her. She claims retaliation for her multiple complaints of under-staffing. Heath is seeking compensation that includes lost wages and benefits, and damages for emotional distress. Her lawsuit says officials made up an excuse to fire her.

In her three years at the facility, Heath moved up the ranks from evening supervisor in 2017 to director of nursing in 2020, according to court documents. “Heath had only received positive performance reviews and several promotions during her employment,” the complaint says.