A lawsuit filed Tuesday by residents v. Alden Nursing Home Operators asserts that intentional understaffing has led to numerous injuries and illnesses.
“Residents have fallen down stairs while strapped to a wheelchair,” the lawsuit says, “they fractured their necks when dropped by a person using a two-person mechanical lift, and they ingested poisonous chemicals due to the lack of care and supervision.
“For many years, Alden has engaged in an ongoing practice of systematically and knowingly profiting from the understaffing of Alden facilities, resulting in dangerous, distressing, and grossly unsanitary living conditions for thousands of residents,” the lawsuit states. .
The lawsuit was filed in Cook County Circuit Court on behalf of 11 nursing home residents anonymously identified as John or Jane Doe. They are between the ages of 26 and 82, and all have Medicaid, the federal and state program that pays for health care for low-income people. Attorneys from the AARP Foundation, Equip for Equality, private law firms, and the Office of the Guardian of the State represent residents.
Alden is a large, for-profit nursing facility network that operates more than 50 facilities serving thousands of Illinois residents, with more than $250 million in annual revenue. Not all Alden facilities appear to have the alleged problems; some have above-average quality ratings from federal regulators. In the past, Alden officials have said residents were well cared for but had serious medical conditions. Company officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the new lawsuit.
The defendants include Alden Group, Ltd., Alden Management Services, Inc., and six long-term care facilities: Alden Lakeland in Chicago, Alden Terrace McHenry, Alden Town Manor in Cicero, Alden Heather Health Care Center in Harvey, Alden Princeton Rehabilitation and Health Care Center in Chicago, and Alden Village North in Chicago.
Alden Village North, serving children and adults with developmental disabilities and complex medical conditions. it was the subject of a 2010 Tribune investigation that found eight residents had died there in cases receiving citations since 2008. State regulators took steps to close the house, but it remained open.
The new findings were based largely on inspection reports and residents’ medical records.
Kelly Bagby, vice president of litigation for the AARP Foundation, said that after three years of looking into state inspection reports and medical records related to Alden, the findings were “really shocking.” Similar lawsuits have been filed against homes in other states, she said.
“This is something that I hope will set off alarm bells throughout the industry,” he said. “We are drawing a line in the sand and saying this is intolerable.”
Alden Management Services had significant control over the day-to-day operations of the homes, including budgeting, staffing, contracting services and quality of care, collecting about $5 million per year in fees, according to the lawsuit.
Alden is believed to be largely owned and controlled by Floyd Schlossberg and his family, who are also senior executives of Alden’s companies and sit on their boards of directors.
Cost reports submitted by the facility showed that Alden saved millions of dollars each year by underemploying while falling short of the legal minimum nursing hours, according to the lawsuit. From 2018 through 2020, the lawsuit alleges, the Alden facility provided hours of nursing care even below the minimum levels required by state law, and should have provided more than one million additional nursing aide hours. The plaintiffs allege that Alden could save millions of dollars a year due to a lack of staff.
To avoid detection, the lawsuit alleges, Alden lied about its staffing levels to regulators and, according to some employees, even forged documents with “ghost staff,” claiming that there were people working who were no longer employed by Alden or were out. of work at that time. .
Top news picks from Chicago Tribune editors, delivered to your inbox every afternoon.
To limit liability, the lawsuit alleges, Alden has residents sign arbitration agreements to waive their right to sue, require secrecy in agreements, and pay legal costs, even though under Alden’s policies, plaintiffs generally have access to only $30 per month of your income
These residents are among the most vulnerable in society, with medical conditions that require help with basic activities like eating, dressing and getting out of bed.
Due to a lack of adequate staffing, the lawsuit alleges, Alden residents suffered serious injuries from falls, acquired pressure ulcers that worsened without treatment, and waited long periods to be diagnosed with sometimes life-threatening conditions.
Attorney Steve Levin, who helped file the complaint, said he found more than 200 lawsuits filed against Alden Nursing Homes in Cook County since 2015 and more than 1,000 citations from the Illinois Department of Health.
This demand goes beyond individual cases to seek a global solution to the problem. Ultimately, Levin said, the goal is to obtain a court order with continued oversight requiring homes to provide enough staff to adequately care for all of their residents.
The lawsuit seeks class action status so that all Medicaid-eligible residents of Alden Nursing Homes can be awarded damages or fall under court judgments resulting from the case.