Federal investigators have warned Prestige Care and Rehabilitation Center, a major Anchorage nursing home, that it has until June 4 to correct what they say are potentially dangerous deficiencies that led the state to seize control of it earlier this month.
On May 15, after an inspection revealed serious problems, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services took the rare step of taking management control of Prestige Care, a facility tucked deep behind Muldoon Road amid a hilltop campus of senior and assisted living housing complexes.
Prestige Care houses 98 residents, which represents 14 percent of all people living in nursing homes statewide.
State officials have only taken such a step once before in recent decades -- at the facility's previous iteration, when it was under different ownership.
The facility's Vancouver, Washington-based parent company, Prestige Care Inc., said it was working with the state to quickly address the problems.
"We recognize that our latest survey from the State revealed some areas where we can continue to improve the quality of our care and service," the company said in a statement Monday.
Citations pile up
The problems at the nursing home came to light during an unannounced visit by state and federal inspectors in May, said Margaret Brodie, the Department of Health and Human Services' director of health care services.
The department had also heard complaints that an unusual number of Prestige residents were coming to Providence Alaska Medical Center.
Investigators from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which oversee quality standards in long-term care facilities, were also involved.
The survey started on May 3 and ended May 13, Brodie said. By the end, the inspectors had identified 50 "citations" for broken rules or bad procedures.
Nationwide, inspectors find an average of about eight citations when they look at any given nursing home, she said.
"So, when you're almost six times that, you've got a real problem," Brodie said.
Of the 50 citations, seven were identified that could "put residents' health and safety in immediate jeopardy." Prestige Care immediately corrected five of the seven and submitted plans to fix the others. Those plans were found to be inadequate, Brodie said.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have since issued a letter to Prestige Care saying that the deficiencies must be fixed by June 4, she said.
After the license was suspended on May 15, a state-appointed interim manager took control of the facility, Brodie said. That person will be in charge until a new director is hired.
Past inspections hint at problems
The specific complaints documented in the most recent inspection are confidential because it has not been finalized, said DHSS spokeswoman Catherine Stadem.
But older inspections are public and offer a window into some of the issues raised by of residents at Prestige Care.
The most recent inspection document to be made public is from February. In it, residents complain of long wait times from care staff and issues ranging from effective toileting help to wound care.
Brodie said regulators need to hear from residents, family and friends about the quality of care in nursing homes.
"We're in these facilities on a regular basis," Brodie said. "But we need input from the public to see how their mother, father, sister, brother feel about their standard of care."