Thu May 31, 2012
Company's Withdrawal Restarts Battle Between Nursing Homes and Legal System
A prominent nursing home company is ending its operations in Kentucky, and the decision has reignited a battle between the nursing home industry and legal professionals.
Earlier this week, Extendicare announced plans to lease its Kentucky nursing homes. The company said too many unnecessary lawsuits were being filed for operations to continue in the state.
Kentucky has grown into a senior living hub, and many big companies like Altria and Kindred have corporate headquarters in the state.
Kentucky Association of Health Care Facilities president Ruby Jo Lubarski says Extendicare's decision has advocates worried.
“It’s always a concern when you have a fertile ground for lawsuits. And we certainly have a fertile ground for lawsuits here in Kentucky. So I think any business would be very prudent to research that, to look at that, to weigh their options,” she says.
Nursing home advocates accuse Kentucky lawyers of trying to cash in quickly with long drawn out abuse cases that most companies will settle in order to avoid a jury trial. They point to a seminar tomorrow in Covington that walks lawyers through every part of a nursing home case as proof.
But Maresa Fawns of the Kentucky Justice Association says nursing homes need to improve their care if they want to reduce the amount of lawsuits they are served with. She says Extendicare had recently been under fire for a lack of quality care at their Kentucky facilities.
“So the systems are already there to take care of this. Back to my previous point, let’s not do anything until they improve the quality of care. They can solve their own problems by improving the quality of care,” Fawns says.
Lubarski says Kentucky nursing homes rank above the national average in several areas for good care and lawyers are just hoping for big settlements.
During this year's legislative session, several lawmakers championed a bill that would have created medical review panels to review abuse cases before they go to court.
Fawns' says her group did not support the bill because they don't believe there need to be any barriers for patients to bring an abuse lawsuit.
The medical panel would have consisted of one doctor picked by the nursing home, one picked by the lawyers and a the third doctor picked by the previous two. The panel would come before a case could go to court, but it would not have prevented a case from going to court based on the panel's decision.
This was the first year the bill was introduced, and it failed.