East Hartford woman claims nursing home staff abused her mom, says state didn’t act fast enough

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EAST HARTFORD--An East Hartford woman is accusing the Department of Public Health of not acting fast enough to investigate her claims of nursing home abuse involving her 88-year-old mother at Ellis Manor in Hartford.

In an exclusive interview, Patricia J. told FOX 61 that she first noticed scratches on her mother in 2012 and questioned Ellis Manor staff. “I asked how did the scratches get there," said Patricia. "They didn’t kind of know. We kind of said, well maybe your mom did it."

Patricia said she continued noticing a pattern of scratches, even when gloves were placed on her mother’s hands. She said the scratches would stop whenever she would stay overnight in her mother’s room.

Patricia said she mentioned the scratches to a state inspector on site at Ellis Manor in 2013. “I told them that I think my mom is being abused,” said Patricia.

She claims she was told that “unless I had further proof to show them that she [her mother] was doing it, then there wasn’t no need for an investigation.”

For two more years, Patricia said she continued to question Ellis Manor. In July 2015--still waiting for answers--Patricia said she placed a hidden camera inside her mother’s room, collecting video for six weeks. The video shows Patricia’s mother shoved in her bed and left without oxygen, which she is supposed to be connected to at all times. The video also shows a nurse’s aide spinning her oxygen tubes.

“When I see my mom in the conditions, it’s just so hard,” said Patricia. “That someone would do that to a person that can’t see or speak, and what is she doing to you? She can’t harm you.”

Patricia said after collecting the surveillance video, she began calling the Department of Public Health. “I kept calling and saying, ‘Look, I have something,’” explained Patricia. “'I have facts. I have proof. I need to speak to someone now. Can you have someone call me back? I need to speak to a manager.' Well, they told me…that that’s not policy and procedure. You send something in writing and we get it in the mail, and once we get it and review it and if it’s something that needs to be investigated, we go out there and we do it.”

Patricia said when she asked for a time frame, DPH told her that after sending in a written request, it would take anywhere from three to six months. Dissatisfied, Patricia said she took the surveillance pictures to Ellis Manor management.

After seeing the images, Ellis Manor took immediate action, firing eight nurses assistants, replacing its administrator and director of nursing and paying closer attention to its operations. “[We are] watching people perform care,” said newly-appointed Ellis Manor administrator Judy Johnson. “We’ve done additional training. We watch. We just have more eyes in place.”

Johnson said the problem is over and done. “I am very confident that this was isolated,” said Johnson. “And that this was a single situation. And that that situation is not occurring today.”

DPH found several violations based on Patricia’s images and following an investigation prompted by Ellis Manor, which had a legal obligation to report Patricia’s complaints to the state.

DPH uncovered 22 violations, including insufficient staffing and reports of residents wandering from the facility. The department said action was taken, and its employees finally met with Patricia.

“When I told them that someone at their unit said that it would take three to six months before they contact a person who sends in stuff like this, they said no, this is gonna be changing,” said Patricia.

A DPH official tells FOX 61 News the department has no record of Patricia calling its office or of her speaking with a state inspector on site in 2013.

Patricia said she has since moved her mother to another facility, but believes Ellis Manor inflicted permanent damage. She also thinks the state needs to investigate abuse faster.

“I want to see policy change, procedures," said Patricia. “I want to see that this never happens to anyone in a nursing home.”

DPH officials would not go on camera, but released the following statement to FOX 61 News:

DPH takes its responsibility to protect the health and safety of Connecticut residents through the regulation of nursing homes and other licensed health care facilities seriously, and have carefully reviewed the chronology of events concerning our recent investigation of Ellis Manor.

DPH first received information concerning care related to a relative of Patricia Johnson from the nursing home on August 4, 2015. DPH followed up with an investigation of the nursing home, which included multiple on-site unannounced inspections. Interviews with Ms. Johnson were also conducted, during which we were shown portions of a video she provided.  As a result of this investigation, DPH took enforcement actions against Ellis Manor effective October 6 and November 3, 2015. DPH’s investigation is ongoing, and further enforcement action may be warranted.

DPH encourages the public, patients, family members, and staff to report allegations of care issues. Our team of nurse inspectors follow up on complaints in accordance with state and federal regulations. There is no policy that complaints take 3-6 months to review.

DPH added that there is no policy stating that complaints take three to six months to review.

Patricia said she is continuing to review the surveillance video and hand over more images to the state. Patricia also told FOX 61 that the Hartford Police Department is now opening a criminal investigation into her case.