The Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services today announced that an Andover nursing home has been fined at least $155,800 for failing to protect its residents from abusive workers.

The Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services today announced that an Andover nursing home has been fined at least $155,800 for failing to protect its residents from abusive workers.

“This agency does not tolerate abuse or neglect of our nursing home residents,” KDADS Secretary Shawn Sullivan said in a prepared statement that accompanied the announcement.

The fine, imposed by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, represents an $8,200-per-day penalty for each day– March 26 through April 13 – that the facility, Victoria Falls, was found to be out of compliance with state and federal safety standards. An additional $1,000 fine is being levied for each day the facility remains out of compliance after April 13.

Sullivan accused the facility’s operators of covering up allegations of abuse and neglect by residents’ family members.

“We believe that in this case there was willful intent not to report allegations of abuse to KDADS,” he said.

Victoria Falls, which has about 60 residents, is owned and operated by Watercrest Communities and DB Consulting, Andover-based companies owned by Dennis and Debbie Bush.

In a statement faxed to KHI News Service, Dennis Bush said the company was cooperating with KDADS and law enforcement officials “…in regards to an allegation of abuse that occurred in 2013. Victoria Falls has taken appropriate measures to ensure the safety of residents, including termination and suspension of involved staff. Unfortunately we are not at liberty to say any more due to federal disclosure laws.”

According to the Watercrest Communities website, the company also owns Victoria Falls Assisted Living in Andover, Carrington at Cherry Creek an assisted living facility in Wichita, and Carrington Health Center, a residential health care facility in Wichita.

KDADS inspectors filed a 150-page report after visiting the facility April 28.

The report stated that a portion of the findings stemmed from a clandestine video from an unidentified “outside source” that showed a night-shift nurse dragging a resident from a wheelchair, dropping the resident to the floor “in the middle of the room directly onto the resident’s bottom,” and leaving the resident alone in the dark.

The resident, who is described as having “disorganized thinking” and a “severe cognitive impairment,” can be heard pleading for help on the video.

According to the time on the video, the incident occurred at 2:44 a.m. on Sept. 2, 2013. The video was not made public by state officials.

An aide helped the resident back into bed after the resident had been on the floor for almost 45 minutes.

In the video, the aide can be heard “sternly” telling the resident, “You are not the only person here. You have taken away from other people needing care. You have been in here acting a fool.”

The nurse later can be seen throwing “a neck pillow at the resident, hitting the resident in the face,” and telling the resident to shut up.

The report does not identify the resident, aide, or nurse by name or by gender.

The aide in the video told KDADS last month that Victoria Falls was “always short-staffed” and that aides would hide residents’ call lights because their co-workers would “go missing for hours…”

Another aide said that “the entire night shift was aware” of the abuse but chose not to report it to the nursing home’s administrators because previous experience had shown that “nothing would be done.”

The surveyors also cited Victoria Falls for poor care, poor recordkeeping, being understaffed, not performing background checks on prospective employees, not doing enough to investigate reports of suspected abuse and neglect, not doing enough to ensure residents’ dignity, not doing enough to keep track of residents’ personal funds, and not doing enough to prevent cuts and bruises.

Linda Farrar, a semi-retired consultant who’s both a nurse and a licensed nursing home administrator, has studied the report.

“The abuse issues are the ones that stick out the most, but I have to say the saddest, most disappointing thing is how long this was allowed to go on,” Farrar said. “I mean, there’s a direct care staff (cited in the report) who says the first time she heard about these people abusing residents was back in July of 2013. That is unacceptable, that is unconscionable. We cannot let our elders be treated this way.”

Mitzi McFatrich, executive director at Kansas Advocates for Better Care, a group that represents the interests of nursing residents and their families, called the survey results “very disturbing.”

State records, she said, show that Victoria Falls failed several inspections since 2012.

“The fine is much larger than what KDADS typically issues, as it should be for abuse," McFatrich said. “Now the question becomes whether the fine will actually be paid or will it be reduced? Are law enforcement and KDADS taking steps to ensure that all responsible parties are held accountable to the full extent of the law? Will the attorney general's office pursue criminal or applicable civil charges? What are the steps being taken to hold the administrator and the director of nursing accountable for failing to report?”

A spokesperson for the Attorney General’s Office was not immediately available for comment.

The facility's operators have the right to appeal the CMS findings and fines.

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