Illinois Nursing Home to Lose Federal Funding Over Safety Issues

February 12, 2010

For the second time in a month, federal authorities terminated government funding to an Illinois nursing home, a rare action taken when residents’ safety is judged at risk.

Illinois health officials recommended the funding cutoff for Fox River Pavilion in Aurora following a resident’s death in a fight with his roommate and the nursing home’s alleged lack of supervision over aggressive and mentally ill ex-felons residing there.

Nursing home officials learned Feb. 9 they have 30 days before they lose federal money. Fox River administrator Scott Braun told the Aurora Beacon-News the facility will fight the action. Phone messages left Wednesday by The Associated Press for Braun and the facility’s attorneys were not immediately returned.

A phone number for Fox River owner David Meisels could not be located. Meisels is listed in state records as the facility’s sole owner.

Illinois Public Health Department spokeswoman Melaney Arnold said the state has a monitor in the nursing home and will help relocate residents who want to move. The facility houses nearly 100 people, including young adults with serious mental illness and frail elderly residents.

More than any other state, Illinois relies on nursing homes to care for young and middle-aged adults with serious mental illnesses. Assaults, rapes and murders in the state’s nursing homes prompted Gov. Pat Quinn to appoint a task force to study nursing home safety. That panel is expected to release its final report soon.

In the Dec. 17 fatal assault at Fox River Pavilion, a fight between two roommates ended with the death of 57-year-old resident Randall Moons. Aurora police “found the one guy unconscious and not breathing,” said Aurora police Sgt. Tom Kearbey.

According to the state Health Department’s report, a nursing assistant found the man pale, cold and with no pulse on top of his roommate. The 54-year-old roommate told investigators he was lying in bed watching TV when the older man started yelling profanities, jumped on the bed and punched him in the face.

The younger roommate told a state investigator he called for help for “over 20 minutes” before another resident got the staff to respond. The fight left the roommate with a broken kneecap and bleeding from his nose, ears and mouth.

The state report said Moons died of a heart problem brought on by stress from the fight.

Moons came to Fox River last August with a history of “unpredictable aggressiveness,” according to the state report. He was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, alcohol abuse, past drug use and high blood pressure. He had received psychiatric treatment at a state facility from February 2005 to September 2008 because he was found unable to stand trial for obstructing a police officer when he violated a court order of protection.

At Fox River, Moons refused to take his medication, was physically aggressive, exposed himself to women and continually tried to leave the facility. Two days before his death, Moons was found sitting in a dry bathtub fully dressed. When questioned, he said he just wanted someone to “shoot him in the head,” according to the Health Department’s investigation report.

The report faulted the nursing home for having no plan for protecting Moons or others despite his escalating behavior.

The state had cited the facility for numerous problems unrelated to Moons during the past several years, including other assaults.

It’s rare for the federal government to terminate funding to a nursing home. Last year, the government terminated funds for 18 nursing homes across the country.

The Fox River termination follows a similar action last week against a troubled Chicago nursing home that houses more than 300 mentally ill residents.

Federal inspectors cited Somerset Place for fights, verbal abuse and lack of supervision. Illinois is acting to revoke Somerset’s license, but has not started the license revocation process against Fox River.

Illinois Department of Public Health’s nursing homes site:

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