FERGUSON, Mo. — The chairman of the Missouri House Urban Issues Committee is waiting to find out if he’ll be able to hold a hearing to explore the state’s oversight of senior care facilities.
The family of an 84-year-old woman who suffers from dementia filed a billion-dollar lawsuit last month, claiming she was sexually assaulted repeatedly at the Christian Care Home in eastern Missouri’s Ferguson.
Democratic State Rep. Courtney Allen Curtis calls the allegations, which include the rape and sodomization of the woman numerous times over eight years, extremely concerning.
Curtis expects to hear within a week from Republican House Speaker Todd Richardson on whether his request for a hearing will be granted. He says sunshine request letters have been sent out to state agencies seeking information on the approval process for senior care facilities and the number of complaints made against those operations.
The family of the woman became suspicious of mistreatment and arranged for her to be examined by doctors at SSM Health DePaul Hospital in Bridgeton. After performing a rape kit on her, physicians determined she’d been repeatedly raped and sodomized.
The state Department of Health and Senior Services’ Long-Term Care Regulation handles inspections and licensing for facilities that offer residential, assisted living and intermediate care as well as skilled nursing. Within the agency, the Missouri Health Facilities Review Committee administers the Certificate of Need law. It decides whether to approve facilities to operate.
Curtis thinks the Facilities Review Committee could be exercising lax oversight because he was once asked to be a member.
“The individual who made that offer to me said things are pretty preordained, meaning essentially it was a rubber stamp, and I would just be there to essentially say yes,” said Curtis. “I subsequently didn’t land on that committee.”
Since issuing a statement Sept. 21 calling for an immediate review of Christian Care Home, Curtis received at least two calls reporting alleged abuse occurring at other senior care facilities.
Saturday, Department of Health and Senior Services Director Randall Williams will join Curtis, Democratic State Sen. Maria Chappelle Nadal, of University City, and St. Louis County Councilwoman Hazel Erby to tour Christian Care Home.
Curtis says he wants to hear from seniors living there about any worries they might have. “We are definitely looking to improve the situation for them if there’s still a current situation, also to establish contact to let them be able to provide us with additional information,” Curtis said.
The fact that Williams, a state agency director would join lawmakers on a weekend tour of the nursing home could indicate a high level of concern over senior care facilities.
Christian Care has been penalized in the past by the government. The St. Louis Post Dispatch reported the nursing home was previously flagged for failure to report and investigate abuse of residents and failure to only hire people with no legal history of abuse.
The home has been fined twice in the past three years by Medicaid: $78,000 in March of 2016 and $8,453 in March of 2017. Medicare rates Christian Care Home below average with a history of poor quality of care. Its staffing levels are considered much below the national average as is its health inspection results.
Representative Curtis notes his sunshine requests are in part a response to calls he has received in regard to harm done to seniors in the same and other facilities. He says it’s important to ensure that individuals receiving senior care are safe and well taken care of.
“If people are going to have to go to a facility like this in their ladder years, we want to ensure that they don’t experience any discomfort, period,” Curtis said.
Missourinet has reached out to Christian Care Home to get a response. No one was available to comment Friday afternoon.