Northland nursing home has history of lawsuits

KANSAS CITY, Mo - The Northland nursing home where an Alzheimer's patient wandered away over the weekend before being found dead has a history of lawsuits.

The Cherry Hills Community and Rehabilitation Center was sued for negligence twice within a month in 2011.

41 Action News Investigators started looking into the facility after 75-year-old George Macias walked away from the facility Sunday afternoon. His body was later found by searchers in a ravine two miles away.

A former supervisor at Cherry Hills Community and Rehabilitation Center didn't want to show her face, but she did want to share her concerns. She worked at the facility for six months and resigned over those concerns in January.

"I knew it was something that could happen because the ankle bracelets rarely worked 100 percent of the time. They knew that," said the former employee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "Not only that, we never had enough (bracelets). They say they are Alzheimer's Dementia equipped. They're far from that."

After airing her interview, 41 Action News Investigators heard from other former employees of the facility who support her claims.

The two lawsuits, filed in Clay County Court, also allege negligence. Both suits were on behalf of people who died while patients of the facility.

One was filed February 23, 2011. The other was filed just a month later on March 23.

One lawsuit discloses few details about what happened to the patient other than he died while in the care of Cherry Hills.

The other alleges the patient died four days after she fell and received an injury to her head. The court filings also say the facility failed to adequately supervise, monitor and treat the patient.

We spoke to Steve Kuker who runs Senior Care Consulting. His company helps families research nursing homes to find the best fit for their loved one.

He told us two lawsuits over patient deaths raises concerns.

"That's a significant and very poor track record. It's not the norm at all," Kuker said. "It's a definite red flag in my opinion."

A spokesman for Cherry Hills gave us this statement concerning the interview we did with the former employee:

"The fact is that all of the doors in the facility are, and have been, equipped with alarm systems. We are currently working with authorities to determine how the resident was able to leave the facility despite having alarms on all of the doors."

After hearing from several former employees Thursday who support the nurses claims, we reached out to the spokesman again. He told us that the company stands by the original statement.

Meanwhile, experts say many people make the wrong decision about a nursing home simply because they wait too long to decide to move to one.

They say you should consider moving to a nursing home when it is no longer safe to live at home, when the health of the caregiver is declining, when home care becomes unaffordable and when you just can't provide enough care.

Experts say if you begin early, you'll have more time to research the right facility rather than be forced to choose when you're emotional.

Here is a link to Medicare's rating guide for nursing homes: http://1.usa.gov/MKfWNT

Here is a link to the state of Missouri's inspections for nursing homes: http://bit.ly/wMl06o

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