Belding nursing home on federal watch list

Ionia County

BELDING, Mich. (WOOD) — On Tuesday, members of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging received a list of nursing homes and adult care facilities placed on a watch list by the Department of Health and Human Services.

On the list, which names homes with significant failures to meet standards to receive Medicaid and Medicare funding, was Metron of Belding.

The federal government fined Metron, a 128-bed facility offering a range of care including for dementia and acute care, nearly $18,000 in January. In February, two penalties totaling more than $137,000 were levied against it.

Earlier, in September, the facility was cited by regulators for violations that led to nearly $147,000 in fines. In October, there were federal penalties of nearly $112,000. That’s on top of fines in April 2017 of nearly $60,000 and in December 2017 of more than $94,000.

The reasons for those fines included things like failing to keep patients free from abuse from fellow residents, insufficient treatment of wounds and ulcers and insufficient staffing. The list of complaints is some 800 pages.

That’s what landed Metron on DHHS’s list of candidates for special focus.

“They don’t take it lightly to place anybody on this (list). There has to be some issues that they have looked into that they are continuing to monitor,” Kaye Scholle, the Michigan long-term care ombudsman based in Kent County, explained. “They have been out of compliance and they’ve stayed out of compliance longer than necessary. It’s difficult to fine the specific dollar amount for the general public.”

Metron acknowledges that there were problems and says it was a direct result of staff turnover and retention of quality staff.

“We admit we went through a challenging time and since then we’re really working to re-engineer our systems and our leadership to turn things around,” said Andrea Paladino, chief marketing officer for Metron Integrated Health Systems, which operates six facilities in West Michigan.

She said the facility no longer uses temporary workers to fill spots and now has only Metron employees.

“We are now agency-free, so we don’t have any agency nursing and we have become a five-star in staffing,” Paladino said. “Our falls have reduced to below the state average because of the systems that we have put into place.”

“I know the facility clearly now is struggling, if you will,” Scholle said. “However, I know that facility has been a very good facility and it has all the potential.”

Paladino said Metron has learned from the experience.

“You sometimes have to step back and say, ‘You know what, we could have done better.’ And I think that with that we’ve come in and we’ve done better,” Paladino said. “I think Belding will be better for it.”

Adult care experts agree that while ratings are important, actually visiting and interacting with staff and residents is the best way to see if a facility is right for you.

“We welcome people to come in and meet us and ask those tough questions,” Paladino said.

Facilities are also required to have their inspection records available to the public on demand.

The federal government has an online tool that allows users to compare facilities, and state compliance information is also available online.

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