JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Two former patients of Kindred Hospital North Florida told the I-TEAM that they would never allow another family member to receive treatment of any kind at the long-term care facility. The Green Cove Springs hospital offers transitional care to patients who are not well enough to go home after receiving treatment at a traditional hospital. Kindred Hospital also offers rehabilitation services.
For its part, the hospital cannot discuss individual patients, but said that it complies with all laws and regulations when providing health care services.
It is those services offered to Andy Blankenship, for his wife, that prompted her transfer from Halifax Hospital in Daytona, where she was treated after falling and hitting her head in August of 2017. Lisa Blankenship was a healthy, mother of four, when she fell from the attic of a home her family was renting and landed on the concrete floor below.
“She had blood coming from her nose and her head,” her husband, Andy, said.
The Blankenships' teenage daughter was there when her mother fell. “The doctors were telling us she wasn’t going to make it,” said Alexa Blankenship.
Despite the grave prognosis, the 48-year-old awakened from a three-week coma and squeezed her mother’s hand. “She opened her eyes while we were there and she looked at us and could tell who we were. Since that day, she’s been able to fully understand us, every word. If you keep things simple she can answer, 'yes' or 'no,'” said Andy Blankenship.
Lisa Blankenship cannot walk. She has trouble swallowing so a tube was inserted in her throat to feed her.
Rash described as scabies
Andy Blankenship said his wife was doing so well at the hospital in Daytona, she was transferred to Kindred Hospital North Florida for rehabilitation. He said she was getting better at first, until she kept getting sick. Lisa's sister-in-law said she noticed a rash on Lisa’s arms and hands. “You would think if a nurse goes into a room and if you’re trained, you would know what the rash is,” said Allyson Seward.
Seward said it took three weeks of complaining about the persistent rash before the proper treatment was prescribed. “The lady came in and said it’s scabies,” said Andy Blankenship who told us that one of the nurses confirmed the diagnosis to him. Scabies is a highly contagious skin rash caused by a mite that is passed by skin-to-skin contact.
Lisa’s daughter said she has constantly been by her mother’s side.
“Many nurses, even the doctor, came in without a gown on or gloves and just touched all over her and I was like, I mean, how many patients did you touch before you touched her?” said Alexa Blankenship. She remembered one time in particular, when she said a nurse touched her mother’s face and the area around her mother’s neck without wearing any gloves. “She touched all over her. She took her oxygen off, put it back on with no gloves.”
Lisa’s family said she developed a mouth infection that caused white sores on her tongue and in her throat. “She was in terrible pain,” said her husband. “I told the nurses so they could tell the doctor,” he said. “I’m telling the nurses this day after day. Finally, three days later, he (the doctor) came in and looked at her. He never spent more than one or two minutes at a time. But he finally ordered medicine,” said Andy Blankenship, who said he was frustrated by a lack of communication between nurses and the doctor.
Andy Blankenship said the way his wife’s medicine was administered to treat her mouth infection was different depending on the nurse.
“She had this liquid, she peeled it off and dumped it down my wife’s throat. I guess this is the way it was supposed to be done,” he said. “The next day, a nurse came in and took a swab and scrubbed her mouth and I questioned her, this didn’t happen yesterday? She said, oh no, she shouldn’t have done that. That’s not the way this is administered,” said Blankenship.
He told the I-TEAM that despite the medicine, his wife was not getting better. “I told the doctor she is still in pain, but they wouldn’t do anything about it,” he said.
He said his wife’s pain level was so high, he called 911 and had her taken to another hospital for treatment. “They ran her through every test possible and found that she had a UTI (urinary tract infection) and they treated her for it,” he said.
Blankenship said that for insurance reasons, he had no choice but to allow his wife to be transferred back to Kindred Hospital. “No one else would take her,” he said, referring to other transitional care hospitals. “I’ve worked hard all my life. We’ve had good insurance up until when I lost my job,” he said.
His wife receives Medicaid. Andy had hoped to have his wife transferred by November, but said the process was taking longer than he expected.
A month after Lisa Blankenship was treated for a UTI, her sister-in-law said she developed pneumonia. She and Lisa’s husband said they think the medical staff treating her rushed to transition her from a feeding tube so she could be moved to another facility.
“They were feeding her in her feeding tube too fast and it would upset her stomach and she would vomit. The vomit would go into her 'trach,'” said Allyson Seward, referring to the tube in Lisa’s throat. “I would walk in the room and I could see where she had thrown up and it dried down her neck, into her trach,” said Andy Blankenship. When I asked him if anyone caught that, he said, “No, because they do it, a couple minutes later they would leave and go check on another patient. No one would come back and check on her for a couple of hours,” he replied.
He said his wife has not been the same since getting pneumonia.
“All the physical therapy we have been doing for four months, all the talking and swallowing tests, the physical therapy, everything that was going great, went out the window, when this happened,” he said.
Since then, he said his wife’s muscles have tightened so much it takes 30 minutes of therapy just to get her to extend one arm. Her daughter, Alexa, said, “She would say 'I love you', back, but she won’t say it anymore.”
They are frustrated and sad to see Lisa’s condition deteriorate. After months of haggling over insurance issues, they have finally moved her to a different facility. They are not the only family to complain to the I-TEAM about Kindred Hospital North Florida.
Former patient describes facility as “disgusting”
A former patient, who does not want to be identified, described the Green Cove Springs facility to the I-TEAM as “disgusting” and “nasty." We are referring to her as Jane in this story.
Jane developed necrotizing fasciitis, which is often referred to as flesh-eating bacteria, which seeped into her skin while she was helping neighbors clean up their home after it flooded during Hurricane Irma.
Doctors had to perform emergency surgery to remove the skin and tissue from the left side of Jane’s hip, across her stomach, all the way to the right side of her body.
She spent days in intensive care. When she was well enough to be discharged from the hospital, she was transferred to Kindred Hospital North Florida for wound care.
Jane said that when she arrived, “I was in shock.” She said she wishes she had been able to visit the hospital before she was transferred there for wound care. If she had, she said she would never have agreed to the transfer.
She took pictures of what she described as unsanitary conditions. “Bathrooms were not clean. My mother cleaned mine. It looked like there was mold in the roof.” She said that since she had an open wound, she immediately worried about infection.
“Hallway smelled horrible”
Jane told News4Jax there was an odor so strong coming from one of the hallways inside Kindred Hospital North Florida, it would make her want to vomit.
“I can’t remember what hallway it was, but I remember I would walk down the hallway and it smelled, to put it bluntly, like death. It was a horrible smell.”
Medicine administered late
Jane was receiving pain medicine intravenously. She said she would receive it late. “There were times when I was scheduled to have medicine and it would be 45 minutes to an hour before I would get it,” said Jane.
Jane told the I-TEAM that part of her wound opened while she was at the Green Cove Springs facility, but that it took days for the doctor to treat her. “We sat for 5 to 6 days without a wound 'vac.'” She said her wound needed to be packed with medicated gauze and a mild vacuum pump to draw out any lingering infection so it would heal.
“We called and we talked to everyone. We were trying to follow the proper process, but we weren’t getting anywhere. So finally, we called the plastic surgeon, who had closed the wound and he called (Kindred) and they put a wound vac on it.”
Hospital inspection reports
The Agency for Health Care Administration, AHCA, inspects hospitals. The I-TEAM uncovered inspection reports that raise serious questions about some of the care other patients have received at Kindred Hospital North Florida. By our count, there have been 33 inspections at the hospital since 2010, with 17 noted deficiencies.
The I-TEAM uncovered that, during a surprise inspection in January 2016, a state inspector witnessed a nurse contaminate her gloves before injecting a patient with medication and also reported seeing nurses who did not properly administer medicine to several patients. (Read the reports from the January 2016 inspection: report one, report two, report three, final order)
The same medication violation was also noted the following year during an April 2017 inspection when the hospital was also cited for not having a safety plan for its patients in the event of an emergency.
Another report lists several patients, considered high-risk, who could not call for help from their hospital beds because the alarms in their rooms were not working. One of those patients was in distress, but no one knew it because the alarm in his room was not connected. The inspector also smelled a strong odor coming from the patient and could not even find his nurse to ask her to change his diaper.
Inspection reports have also found violations associated with doors that are supposed to close automatically in the event of a fire and with the hospital’s sprinkler system.
Kindred Hospital North Florida response
The I-TEAM visited Kindred Hospital North Florida to get its side of the story and to give its management an opportunity to respond. The CEO, Patrick McVey, declined an on-camera interview, but emailed this statement to the I-TEAM:
“Patient care and safety is our number one concern. Due to patient privacy laws, we are unable to comment about the specific details of any patient’s case or situation, even if that patient or their family discusses their information publicly. We take seriously any issues brought to our attention and investigate those concerns. As a hospital caring for acute level patients, we develop care plans for each patient with physicians and our interdisciplinary care team. Each patient’s treatment plan is unique and adjustments are made as necessary based on each patient’s situation. If any patient needs continued care after their hospital stay, we will meet with patients and their families to discuss alternative placement options. We address any and all regulatory survey findings and proactively correct them as needed. We are currently in compliance with all state and federal regulations. We have a positive wean rate and are happy that many of our patients no longer require ventilator support when they leave our facility for a lower level of care, including home. We are proud of the care provided by our staff and physicians, who successfully treat many patients.”
McVey later emailed this addendum to the hospital’s initial statement:
“Over the course of 24 years serving the residents of North Florida the hospital has had minimal State citations and any issues were addressed immediately. Kindred Hospital North Florida is compliant with the Agency for Health Care Administration and is accredited by the Joint Commission (an independent organization that accredits health care organizations and programs). We follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention protocol as it pertains to infection control which includes adhering to strict requirements around hand hygiene, gowning and gloving. Execution of these protocols is evident in our low infection rates. Our dedicated caregivers take pride in the cleanliness of our patients.”
The I-TEAM would like to hear from you about your experience at Kindred Hospital North Florida, you can email Jennifer Waugh at firstname.lastname@example.org or call our I-TEAM hotline: 904-479-NEWS (6397).
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