Nursing home horror stories focus of new federal initiative

Patients bordered on starvation at times, and some suffered from severe bed sores and lay in their own waste. Ceiling tile, soaked with rain, would fall on their beds. The air was so foul patients kept their windows open to try to get fresh air. Trash piled up outside, and the facility was plagued with rodents, mold and mildew.

Those were scenes at Georgia nursing homes owned by a Sandy Springs couple, who bought luxury homes and cars with Medicare and Medicaid money that was supposed to pay for patients' care. It took a patient's death to bring the horrific conditions to light.

ExploreNow, some Georgia nursing facilities are going to come under close scrutiny by the U.S. Department of Justice.

The DOJ is assembling Elder Justice Task Forces in 10 states, including Georgia, to target skilled care facilities that subject residents to abuse or financial exploitation, or deprive them of essential care.

Credit: Lois Norder

The task force will bring together state and local law enforcement and prosecutors, the U.S. Attorney's Office, the federal Department of Health and Human Services, state Adult Protective Services, with the goal of quickly identifying and pursuing nursing homes jeopardizing the health and well-being of elderly residents.

ExploreYou can read more about the task force here.

In Georgia, the task force will focus on these counties:

Banks, Barrow, Bartow, Cantoosa, Carroll, Chattooga, Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, Coweta, Dade, Dawson, DeKalb, Douglas, Fannin, Fayette, Floyd, Forsyth, Fulton, Gilmer, Gordon, Gwinnett, Habersham, Hall, Haralson, Heard, Henry, Jackson, Lumpkin, Meriwether, Murray, Newton, Paulding, Pickens, Pike, Polk, Rabun, Rockdale, Spalding, Stephens, Towns, Troup, Union, Walker, White and Whitfield.

Among the Georgia nursing home horror stories in recent years was the case of Moran Lake Nursing Home in Rome, owned by George and Rhonda Houser of Sandy Springs. The state had inspected it several times over the years, but didn't shut it down until conditions became "barbaric."  

George Houser was eventually sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for Medicare and Medicaid fraud. The case was the first where a nursing home operator was convicted of fraud because the services provided were worthless, giving the Justice Department a new way to prosecute those who swindle health plans for the poor, elderly and disabled, the AJC reported in 2012.

The federal government publishes a list of nursing homes that are under focus because of their history of serious quality issues. A recent list of homes that haven't improved, despite the special focus, includes Orchard View Rehabilitation & Skilled Nursing Center in Columbus, Ga. The list shows that among those homes improving is Cook Senior Living Center in Adel, Ga. Recently graduated from the special focus program is Pruitthealth - Virginia Park in Atlanta, after 18 months in the program.

UPDATE: Click here for information about nursing homes previously on the Special Focus list or go to this URL:

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