BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - Katrina Underwood would visit her mother regularly at Humboldt House Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Buffalo.
But in February she began to notice a problem – rodents in her mother’s room.
“I was at one point catching a mouse every week,” said Underwood, whose 79 year old mother had been battling dementia for a number of years.
“I didn't know what to do. I was just trying to speak to whoever would listen,” she said.
Underwood said she alerted staff and eventually complained to the New York State Health Department which inspects all 627 nursing homes in the state.
“You don't want to go see your loved one every day and they're sharing space with rodents.”
The state health department inspected Humboldt House in May as part of the facility's recertification survey.
Humboldt House was cited for more than two dozen “regulatory violations.”
Included in the May recertification survey by health department inspectors were two complaints, one filed by Underwood.
Inspectors found that Humboldt House “did not maintain an effective pest control program,” which according to a summary of deficiencies affected “four of four resident use floors.”
The health department inspection revealed "rodent activity in the main kitchen and throughout resident areas.”
Additionally, interviews were conducted with residents of the East Side facility.
One resident told health inspectors that "he had a rodent in the bed" with him and “saw another rodent run under the dresser.”
Another resident stated he has seen "rodents in his room as recently as one month ago.”
According to health department inspection records, a person identified as Resident C stated that “she saw one rodent in her bed” and another “under her nightstand.”
Katrina Underwood provided News 4 Investigates with a copy of the inspection report provided to her by the state health department.
“I mean, it's unacceptable,” said Underwood. “They're not clean animals. They're not pets. They can cause disease – infection.”
She even provided photos of what appears to be mouse droppings on a washcloth, a dresser drawer, a shoe in the closet and on a sock in the closet of her mother’s room.
Underwood showed News 4 Investigates pictures she took of rodents in traps that she purchased with her own money.
“I wanted to have some proof that this was going on,” she explained. “I was catching a mouse in my traps that I provided which I though was ridiculous.”
Even before health department inspectors walked in the door at Humboldt House in May, Underwood says she managed to get her mother moved to another nursing home facility.
“We have never had to live in a situation like that. Why would I have her exposed to rodents,” she said. “This is the straw that broke the camel’s back for sure.”
Pest control deficiencies corrected, facility now in compliance
Humboldt House declined an on-camera interview for this report, and instead issued a statement.
“The NYSDOH inspection from May of 2016 was the facility’s annual inspection. Following this, the facility was given a statement of deficiencies and responded with an acceptable plan of correction to the NYSDOH. The annual inspection produced deficiencies, but no fines or sanctions were issued. Upon re-survey the facility was found to be in substantial compliance with the pest control deficiency. Since the change of ownership in December 2015, Humboldt House has had no complaint surveys to date.”
MORE | See the full statement here.
According to the state health department, federal regulatory parameters require the state to allow providers an opportunity to submit a plan of correction for the cited violations. Humboldt House submitted a plan of correction in June that was evaluated and approved by the Department of Health.
Inspectors went back in July to conduct an onsite review to determine if the violations had been corrected. State health inspectors found that issues related to “sanitary conditions” were corrected, and that the facility was currently in compliance.
Humboldt House argues that it has maintained an effective pest control program.
“Any communications from the administration of the facility to the ownership related to any pest issues has, and will continue to be addressed immediately. Any awareness prior to the change in ownership related to an ongoing rodent problem was not communicated or disclosed to current administration and ownership,” according to the Humboldt House statement.
But what about Katrina Underwood having to place her own traps in the nursing facility?
Humboldt House states the owners and current administration “would never request a family member to supply pest management, nor would it allow this activity to occur” since the facility has a pest control contract.
Underwood says she was “sad,” but relieved when she learned of rodent issues found by health department inspectors.
“It validated that I was on to something. This was worth looking into,” Underwood said.
And even though her mother left the facility before the May inspection, she thought of the residents who remained at Humboldt House.
“I want to give a voice to people that probably are just trying to get by, and just try to have a good day…and they shouldn’t have to deal with this.”
State health inspection found other issues
In addition to pest control issues, the state health department noted other problems during the May inspection at Humboldt House.
For example, inspectors cited the facility for the following:
• Facility did not ensure that residents who are unable to carry out activities of daily living (ADLs) receive the necessary services to maintain good nutrition, grooming, and personal hygiene;
• Facility did not develop a comprehensive care plan for each resident that includes measurable objectives and timetables to meet a resident's medical, nursing, mental and psychosocial needs;
• Facility did not ensure the resident has a right to participate in planning care and treatment or changes in care or treatment;
• Facility did not promote care for residents in a manner that maintains or enhances each resident's dignity;
• Facility did not dispose of garbage and refuse in a proper manner;
• Facility did not establish and maintain an Infection Control Program designed to provide a safe, sanitary, and comfortable environment and to help prevent the development of transmission of disease and infection.
• Facility did not ensure that the resident environment remains as free of accident hazards as is possible and that each resident receives adequate supervision and assistance devices to prevent accidents.
• Facility did not provide each resident with sufficient fluid intake to maintain proper hydration and health.
• Facility did not provide housekeeping and maintenance services to maintain a sanitary, orderly, and comfortable interior.
According the Department of Health, Humboldt House was cited for a total of 29 violations during the May 2016 recertification survey.
MORE | See the survey here.
Although, the pest control issues were determined to be corrected, the health department tells News 4 Investigates that five of the non-harm level violations found in May had not been corrected when inspectors went back in July.
• Properly investigate an incident;
• Failure to update a care plan;
• Failure to follow a care plan;
• Failure to properly dry a resident after bathing;
• Failure to practice good hand hygiene.
According to Humboldt House, three of the outstanding violations were based on the performance of one nurse aid during the July resurvey. The facility has submitted a plan of correction and is waiting for Department of Health approval.
The state health department tells News 4 Investigates that if the violations are not corrected by August 13 Humboldt House would be “subject to penalties, including denial of payment for new admissions.”
Additionally, DOH states that if the violations are not corrected within 180 days from the original survey date Humboldt House could be “terminated from participating in the Medicare and Medicaid program.”
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