Taking Action

Local group calling for change inside Virginia’s nursing homes

Local News

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — COVID-19 has shed a spotlight on nursing homes and the problems some have been facing long before the pandemic.

Reports of alleged abuse and neglect, staffing shortages, and a lack of training has prompted the formation of a local group looking for change. Justice and Change For Victims of Nursing Facilities is calling on state lawmakers and facility operators to make reforms.

The members all have their own personal stories of alleged abuse and neglect. Kelly Edwards was stunned when her mother who had just gotten a colostomy bag was left sitting in her own filth.

Edwards (right) with her mother (center) and daughter (left). (Courtesy: Kelly Edwards)

“She would call me crying and upset because she was sitting in her feces,” Edwards said. “I was told by a registered nurse that she did not know how to change the bag.”

Karen Clarke’s mom, who was at The Laurels of Bon Air, a skilled nursing and rehabilitation center in Chesterfield, died in 2020. Clarke says her mom was left with bed sores that went down to bone.

“I could hear her moaning in pain,” Clarke said.

Clarke also tells 8News that when she was able to visit in-person before COVID-19, she would find her mother left alone and unattended to.

Clarke visits her mother. (Courtesy: Karen Clarke)

“Several times that I come to visit her, her clothes are soaked in urine,” Clarke said.

Tracey Pompey’s dad David Jones died in 2015. He had gone to Glenburnie Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Richmond for rehab on his leg after a stroke. However, five days later, he was vomiting stool. The nursing staff charted his condition, but he was never transported for additional care.

“He never made it to the hospital,” Pompey said. “He died on the floor in his room.”

That was followed by an investigation.

“They admitted to the state investigators that they didn’t follow their own protocol,” Pompey said.

Records show Glenburnie was cited and submitted a correction plan.

“The issues noted are from the past – occurring four years ago, and when the Glenburnie facility was under its former ownership,” Glenburnie Administrator Paul Long said in a statement to 8News. “Since then, there are new owners, new leadership, we’ve implemented new health and safety protocol and a new culture. We are now one of the most praised institutions in the region proving the upmost superb quality and care.”

Federal inspection records give the facility a below-average overall rating. However, we are told that was for an inspection in 2019 under the previous ownership. The new owners took over in January 2020. There was no annual inspection last year.

These accounts from the families of residents are what prompted Joanna Heiskill to found the group Justice and Change For Victims of Nursing Facilities.

“The common element was abuse and neglect,” Heiskill said.

It is also personal for her.

The Chesterfield resident believes Bonview Rehabilitation and Healthcare in Richmond cut her mother, Merlene Cartwright’s, life short.

“The doctor ordered a C-Pap machine for her and other things,” Heiskill said. “They refused to get it for her.”

Heiskill tells 8News that the doctor listed it as critical for her labored breathing. Her mom died not long after. Heiskill filed a complaint.

While the federal and state investigation didn’t specifically address her list of concerns, it did find the facility needed to do better.

“It said that the system failed her,” Heiskill said.

Three years later, federal records show Bonview has a below-average overall rating.

Heiskill says the group is pressing lawmakers, facility operators, and the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), which oversees nursing homes, for better training, increased staffing, and more oversight and follow-up.

“We would like to have an opportunity to go before the General Assembly,” Heiskill said.

The group tells 8News that despite failing inspections and repeat violations, nothing ever seems to change.

“When you complain about it, [it] seems to be like, ‘Oh well, that is just what it is,'” Edwards said. “We want to make a change all the all to the beginning of nursing school, all the way up to the top admin, all the way up to the General Assembly.”

Pompey, who was a nursing assistant herself for 30 years, says staffing is a major problem. She says that she was sometimes assigned to care for 20 patients a day.

“You cannot give quality care, no matter how much they say you can,” Pompey said.

The group encourages others including staff to reach out to them on their Facebook page or Instagram.

8News reached out to VDH and has been told that they will respond to these concerns.

Bonview Rehabilitation and The Laurels of Bon Air did not return calls or emails from 8News requesting comment.

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