Thursday, September 19, 2002

Records give glimpse of turmoil at nursing home

By Charles Wolfe
The Associated Press

        FRANKFORT — A woman who had been wracked with fever for most of a month at Tina Conner's nursing home died the day after Christmas, the same day state inspectors arrived.

        The woman's physician said the staff did not tell him the fevers had defied antibiotics. Nor did he realize that tests he ordered weren't performed until that day, according to records of the inspection at the Cabinet for Health Services.

        Inspectors said the lack of attention to a Parkinson's disease patient with breathing and feeding tubes was evidence of dangerous understaffing at the nursing home, Birchtree Healthcare at Clinton.

        Their report, along with letters and copies of lawsuits, was released by the cabinet Wednesday.

        Ms. Conner denied the inspectors' allegations at the time. She went public Tuesday with an accusation that she had a two-year affair with Gov. Paul Patton and that Mr. Patton turned inspectors loose on Birchtree because she broke off the relationship. Mr. Patton denied both allegations.

        Birchtree was fined $16,500. Federal health officials dropped it from Medicare and Medicaid. The state removed residents under its jurisdiction. Birchtree eventually filed for bankruptcy. A bank in Clinton sued last month to foreclose on the property.

        Ms. Conner, who owned Birchtree with her husband, accused the four-woman inspection team of “gross misconduct.”

        “It was evident when these individuals entered my facility they had an agenda,” Ms. Conner said in a letter to Health Services Secretary Marcia Morgan in April.

        To avoid being closed entirely, Birchtree sued the cabinet and obtained a restraining order in Hickman County Circuit Court.

        Neither the complaint nor Ms. Conner's letter to Ms. Morgan mentioned Mr. Patton.


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- Records give glimpse of turmoil at nursing home