SANFORD – A nursing home where maggots were found on a resident earlier this week was found to have “health deficiencies” far exceeding state and national averages during inspections last year, according to a federal Medicare comparison of nursing homes.

The Newton Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing tallied 14 health-related deficiency or problem categories during a series of inspections last September. Examples cited in an inspector’s report included dirty bedside tables, food-encrusted wheelchairs, chipped bathroom tiles and hanging utility wires. The average number of health deficiencies found in Maine nursing homes is 4.8 per inspection; the national average is 7.4 deficiencies per inspection.

Despite its one-star “much below average” health inspection rating by Nursing Home Compare on Medicare.gov, the Newton Center had not been fined or denied payment for services within the past three years.

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services — the state agency that licenses and oversees the operation of nursing homes — could provide no information Thursday on the Newton Center’s performance record or past health violations.

“I can’t tell you about their record,” DHHS spokesman John Martins said Thursday. “That information is not readily available on each facility.”

Martins said the Newton Center is fully licensed, without conditions, following a regular, annual inspection. He said it would take a formal request and an undetermined amount of time to get detailed data about the center and the frequency of similar incidents at nursing homes across Maine.

The Newton Center is a 74-bed, skilled nursing and rehabilitation facility on July Street that is next to and affiliated with Goodall Hospital.

An inspector from the Division of Licensing and Regulatory Services at DHHS visited the center Thursday, four days after a nurse spotted several small insect larvae on the ankle of a male resident, according to hospital officials.

The nurse noticed the maggots Sunday afternoon, a nursing home official reported the incident to DHHS on Monday, and it was reported by Maine news media on Wednesday.

The larvae were found during a routine skin check on a resident who had been checked by the same nurse less than 12 hours before, according to a twice-daily schedule set by a doctor, hospital officials said.

“The larvae were found on the surface of the skin,” said Patty Charvat, hospital spokeswoman. “There was no open wound. The larvae were in the earliest stages.”

It’s the first known maggot-related incident at the Newton Center, Charvat said. Staff members immediately notified the medical director, treated the resident, checked other residents, disinfected the facility and notified family members of all residents. No other larvae were found, she said.

“We are 100 percent certain this is an isolated incident,” Charvat said, adding that staff members are being “hypervigilant” in checking every resident daily for the foreseeable future.

Patsy Aprile, Goodall’s president and CEO, said, “The staff did everything they should have done. This isn’t a case of neglect.”

The nurse disposed of the maggots without photographing them, Aprile said, but staff members believe they were larvae deposited by a common housefly.

After discovering the larvae, staff members checked the center for any openings that might allow insects indoors and tightened food storage and disposal throughout the facility, said Kathy Fernberg, Goodall’s vice president of eldercare services. A pest-control company added insect-repelling air-blowers in automatic doorways.

Fernberg said the DHHS inspector was at the center for most of the day Thursday, including a visit with the resident who was found with larvae on his skin.

“It went very well,” Fernberg said. “We didn’t see a single fly. She told us the nurses handled the situation appropriately and the resident received needed care.”

It’s unclear when DHHS will issue its findings, according to a written statement from Ken Albert, director of the licensing division.

“The division takes the time that is prudent and necessary to thoroughly investigate all complaints received,” Albert said. “Licensing staff will work diligently with any facility it regulates to assure that issues impacting (patient) safety are addressed immediately.”

If the inspector identifies violations, Albert said, division staff will follow up to make sure that the facility achieves and maintains compliance.

In 2010, DHHS slapped St. Joseph’s Manor in Portland with a $10,000 fine after the nursing home was found to have neglected a dying resident whose body was infested with hundreds of maggots.

Fernberg and Aprile adamantly denied any neglect in the case at the Newton Center. They attributed last year’s “much below average” health inspection rating on Medicare.gov to the age of the facility, which was built in 1978.

Based on a five-star rating system, the Newton Center received a two-star “below average” overall rating in 2011, as well as a one-star “much below average” rating for health inspections, and four-star “above average” ratings for both staffing and quality of care.

Many problems at the center were corrected as soon as they were identified, according to the inspection report, but the surveyor also noted deficiencies related to giving medications, serving food and otherwise caring for residents.

The Medicare rating assessed almost all of the 14 deficiencies to have “minimal harm or potential for actual harm.”

Fernberg and Aprile said the center recently spent $80,000 on building improvements that they hope will bring a better rating during the next inspection, which is set for November.

Despite the Newton Center’s mixed ratings, Joyce Graffam is confident that her 92-year-old mother, Pearl Yeaton, is getting good care at the facility, where she has lived for two years. Graffam also works as a clerk and cashier at the hospital.

“I’m not worried,” Graffam said as she left the nursing home Thursday afternoon. “I think they give patients very good care. I can go into my mom’s room anytime and it’s clean and she’s well cared for.”

 

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

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