Nursing home says state misused power

October 27, 2011
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Our partners at the Austin Weekly News recently published the following letter. While it was not submitted to AustinTalks, we believe it’s important for readers to hear from one of the nursing home’s employees.

By Michele Catala

I often wonder if, at any time, news stories are two-sided, meaning when stories are investigated, all sides are involved. I have been the social service director at Columbus Manor for the past five years, and I find this article to be offensive: Nursing home cited for health, safety violations.

I find it offensive because of the general statements that have been made, things like “tragedy of the situation.” What exactly is the tragedy? Did anyone care to investigate the excellent treatment that residents receive by the social service and nursing staff at Columbus Manor?

Did anyone report on how if it was not for those of us who have dedicated our lives to helping people, from all walks of life, who have a mental illness, most of them would not get their medications, see a dentist, see a podiatrist, take showers, go to programs, get substance abuse help or see a doctor of any kind?

Where is the reporting on the good that we also do at Columbus Manor? Where is the reporting on how hard our jobs are due to the lack of funding and all the cuts that have been made on programs for people with mental illness?

Where is the reporting that the state of Illinois will not pay for a person’s transportation to an out-of-facility substance abuse group because according to them “it’s not a medical necessity,” but yet they want us to provide services and help for someone with a crack cocaine problem? Doesn’t that sound pretty ridiculous?

It’s even more ridiculous that they will write a violation for not having the addicted individual in a group, yet they will not help us get them to a group. Where is the reporting on how hard it is for us to help those who need it the most when the government itself won’t help?

Where is the reporting of the severe misuse of power that the state has when dealing with facilities like Columbus Manor? Has it been reported that if a state surveyor has a personal vendetta against an administrator, they can then walk into a building and cite violations whenever they want?

Has it been reported that a state surveyor can leave a facility without finding anything, but as soon as they get to their office they are told by their superiors that they must notify the facility, via phone, that they have decided to write a tag for something?

Has it been reported that most of the time public health surveyors do not even know their own policies and procedures, and that often times they send sanitarians in to survey a building’s nursing and social service department?

One would think the state and the facility would be working together to service all who live in these homes. But instead, we the facility, are in fear, always second-guessing ourselves when we have a survey because even though the rules and regulations don’t change, the moods of the surveyors sure do, and on any given day what was said yesterday may not be good today. I think as a whole, society needs to understand that chronic mental illness is not going away.

No one is telling the state they should not govern nursing homes, because in all actuality it is a good thing, but they need to go about it in a different way. We should not be at odds. We should be working together to find common ground as to what is in the best interest of the residents.

I think the real “tragedy” here is that there is a population of mentally ill patients who need good quality care, and that this story was extremely fabricated. I also want to note the resident who was mentioned in this article, of getting out and being hit by a vehicle was not accurate. This resident was not a registered sex offender; this resident was not sexually aggressive either.

Columbus Manor is a good facility with good staff that really care about the residents, and it’s really sad that this gets overshadowed by fabricated stories that are made to be more than they really are – that’s the real “tragedy.”

Catala is the social service director at Columbus Manor.

You can read the earlier stories published by AustinTalks about conditions state inspectors said they found at the nursing home here and here.

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