Giving Nursing Homes A License To Kill?
One Man’s Fight To Save His Brother
By Harold Bell
Left to right: Rep. Donna Edwards, Rep. Steny Hoyer and Sen. Ben Cardin
On Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012 I was visiting Patuxent River Rehabilitation/Nursing Home in Laurel, Maryland. Wednesdays are when the assigned “Wound Doctor” Dr. Carlton Scroggins makes his rounds visiting patients. My brother Earl K. Bell, a U.S. Army vet and former D.C. Metropolitan Police Department officer, is one of his patients.
Earl K. Bell Former Sgt. Military MP (U. S.Army), Sgt. DC MPD and Heavyweight boxing Champion (All-Army)
During this visit, Dr. Scroggins informed me that he would be visiting my brother every other Wednesday, biweekly instead of weekly. Shortly after that, however, he had a change of heart!
Dr. Scroggins told me he was going to admit my brother to the DC VA Hospital on Nov. 11.
“It looks like your brother is going to need surgery,” Dr. Scroggins said. “I think the skin on his amputated foot is too close to the bone. He will be admitted for evaluation.”
While visiting my brother on Nov. 10, the day before his scheduled evaluation at the VA Hospital, I was informed by his unit nurse Mariann that his evaluation trip to VA had been cancelled!
When I asked why, she responded, “It has something to do with his Medicare Insurance.” I didn’t see Dr. Scroggins again until weeks after the cancellation.
My first question to him was, “Why was my brother’s admittance to VA cancelled?”
First, he acted as if he knew nothing about Earl being scheduled to go to the VA. I had to refresh his memory of our one-on-one conversation. It was then that I knew there was a problem with the “Wound Doctor.”
He also seemed to be involved in the fabled 3 little monkeys’ game familiar in nursing homes around the country “hear no evil, speak no evil and see no evil.”
My next encounter with Dr. Scroggins would be on Wednesday Nov. 28. When I arrived at Unit 2 of the facility, I observed Dr. Scroggins making what I would describe as “small talk”(laughing and grinning) with Patuxent staff.
When I walked into my brother’s room, his nurse Mariann was changing the bandages on his wounds.
I asked my brother if Dr. Scroggins had already seen him. His response was, “Not yet!”
This was highly unusual. When I visit on Wednesdays Dr. Scroggins first examines my brother’s wounds before clean bandages are applied. Since I was confused by the change in routine I returned to the hallway to get an explanation from Dr. Scroggins.
I found him still holding court with the unit staff. I waited patiently until he was through to ask him if he had seen my brother.
I was shocked when he replied, “No I am going to wait until next week. Your brother is due to be admitted to VA Hospital on the 14th (December) and that way I can write a fresh report!”
I said to myself, “Something is wrong with this picture.” This is a doctor who definitely does not seem to have his patient’s best interest at heart.
My fears were confirmed on Sunday, Dec. 2, when a staff member named Gladys, initially mistaking me for my brother’s son, said she had been trying to reach me concerning my brother. She informed me that his wounds had become infected. She said he needed antibiotics to combat the infection, but his son had not returned her calls.
This was just four days after Dr. Scroggins said he wanted to wait a week to write “a fresh report.” This means, while Dr. Scroggins was on the unit on Nov. 28, Earl was lying in bed with infected wounds that evidently the doctor knew nothing about or he was ignoring.
My brother was then assigned to another room away from the general population. I was told I would need to put on a mask and gloves during my next visit.
On Wednesday Dec. 5, Harry Horton a childhood friend and an old Army buddy of my brother visited the nursing home with me to see him. We found him in a room different than his 202 in isolation away from the general hospital population.
For the past 2 years I have asked the administration, futilely, to provide my brother with a new wheelchair. I was told his insurance would not pay for it. The social work staff led by Crystal King has had “Family Meetings” without notifying family members of the dates and times.
On more than one occasion my brother was denied scheduled visits to VA Hospital because of insurance claims and lack of transportation, most recently on Friday, Dec. 14.
On Friday Dec. 28, I received a telephone call from Patuxent River nurse Mariann. She wanted to know if I would be available to accompany my brother on a visit to a urologist in Greenbelt, Maryland because he needed someone there with him to interpret his needs to the doctor!
I explained to her it would be impossible because my wife was just coming home after an extended stay in the hospital. I asked her to call his son and daughter and Mariann said, “I have tried on several occasions but they won’t respond.”
Earl’s pensions and Medicare are paying Patuxent River Rehab to take care of him, but the facility cannot provide transportation and staff assistance to him for hospital visits and doctor appointments.
When they take responsibility for his care, am I the only one who finds something wrong with practice?
As we head into 2013, Earl K. Bell has not been admitted to the VA Hospital as scheduled. His last scheduled admittance date was Friday December 14, 2012. When I went to check on him on Monday, December 17, 2012 at the VA Hospital I was told he never arrived!
On October, 1st I wrote to Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) and Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) about my brother’s welfare, but it seems everyone was too busy passing the buck.
Edwards’ Chief of Staff Adrienne Christian said Patuxent River was the territory of Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), not Edwards.
Ms. Christian passed the buck on to their office in Montgomery County, which passed me on to no one in particular. There was no follow-up.
Rep. Hoyer has been the exception among the Maryland politicians. He will get involved and will take up your fight but every fight cannot be his.
I have had up-close and personal experiences with Presidents (Kennedy and Nixon)and Congressmen like Lou Stokes (D-Ohio), Parren Mitchell (D-Md), Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), Barbara Jordan (D-Tex) Strom Thurmond (R-SC) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), all of whom kept it real and took their roles as public servants seriously when it came to helping others.
The problem lies with these “New Jack” politicians like Donna Edwards who could care less. They come into office with nothing but “Book Sense” and no people related qualities.
The sad part of this political process is that they hire staff that is just as clueless as they are.
Congresswoman Edwards’ indifferent behavior can be equally shared by the Patuxent River administrators and staff (John Spadaro and Jodie Dyer), the Wound Doctor (Carlton Sroggins), my brother’s son (Kenneth Bell), AARP (Addison Rand), the Maryland state ombudsman’s office, as well as the Ombudsman Program of Prince Georges County (including state ombudsman Alice Hedt and her colleagues (Stephanie Numer and Jeannie O’Brien), and The Office of Health Quality (Pat Carter).
There is no integrity or honesty in office of the Ombudsman program which is suppose to be there to protect nursing home residents.
In an interview with Tom Joyner’s (Black Americaweb.com) correspondent Jackie Jones, there are contradicting versions of what I witness taking place at Patuxent River Rehab and what the ombudsman’s office is reporting.
For example, Ms. Hedt who works out of the State office told Ms. Jones, that an Ombudsman had visited Earl Bell and that he had not suffered an infection and had not been isolated. Mr. Bell had a special cushion added to his wheelchair to alleviate the pressured sore. The Ombudsman told Hedt that Earl’s son was active in his father’s care.
He also told the ombudsman that his son had the Power of Attorney and he was a active participant in his care and that there were no problems. This is definitely a contradiction of what I witness at Patuxent River Rehab.
Gary Johnson, the Founder and Publisher of Black Men In America.com tried to contact administrators at Patuxent River Rehab in October of 2012 and never could get a response.
It gets worst, I am watching television (Fox News 5) during the month of November there is a segment on nursing home abuse. The story being aired was similar to my brother’s at Patuxent River Rehab (out of control bed sores).
A lawyer who claimed to be an advocate for nursing home residents was a part of the interview process. I am impressed by his concerned and response to nursing home abuse.
Attorney Michael Winkleman is on the show representing the law firm of McCarthy, Winkleman & Morrow, LLP. The next day I call information to get a contact number for the firm. After obtaining the number I leave a message for Attorney Wickleman.
Several days later Attorney Wickleman returns my call and we discus my brother’s problems. He says “I will get back to you”and he does (see e-mail response below).
Do you have any of the medical records? Do you have time to speak on the phone today?
McCarthy, Winkelman & Morrow, LLP
4201 Northview Drive
Bowie, Maryland 20716
On November 16, 2012 I received a second e-mail from his partner Attorney Tom Morrow (see below).
Dear Mr. Bell:
Thank you for speaking with me today regarding the unfortunate plight of your brother, Earl. You indicated he has been at Patuxent NH for 5 years and has recently been suffering from decubitus ulcers (bed sores). You believe this is the result of neglect and inattention from the staff of the nursing home. You advised that he is to go to the VA hospital on December 14 for surgical evaluation of the wounds.
I will be meeting with Mike Winkelman in the next several days to discuss an approach. I or Mike will be in touch after we have reviewed the issues in your brother’s case.
McCarthy, Winkelman & Morrow, LLP
One Town Center
4201 Northview Drive, Suite 410
Bowie, Maryland 20716-2668
I waited to get a response from them leading up to the Thanksgiving holidays. As we head into the New Year they have disappeared without a trace or call back!
Shakespear once cried out “Kill all the lawyers” I wonder why?
Last but not least, the politicians who passed the bill in 1996 that created HIPAA, supposedly designed to protect patient privacy, but which has created nightmares for families trying to get help for their loved ones because the law gives hospitals and nursing home administrators the power to sit on information they don’t wish to divulge under the guise of privacy.
The AARP has lost all credibility with its hear no evil, see no evil and speak no evil representation of senior citizens.
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley should be ashame of the way the State Ombudsman’ Office allows nursing homes to mis-treat and abuse senior citizens who deserve better.
They all are equally responsible for giving nursing homes around the country a “License to Kill.”
Politicians & HIPPA are creating more Dr. Jack Kevorkians (the Death Machine)?
The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on, do and say nothing.–Albert Einstein