Attorney General Shapiro Warns of More Investigations and Prosecutions to Come
On June 2, 2021, Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced the conclusion of a joint criminal investigation into a Darby skilled nursing facility, resulting in a former corporate executive’s plea of nolo contendere to the charge of reckless endangerment of three nursing home residents, as a result of what was alleged to be chronic understaffing. The incidents that resulted in criminal charges occurred pre-pandemic in 2017. However, when questioned, AG Shapiro indicated that there are ongoing criminal investigations into inadequate nursing home care during the COVID-19 pandemic and declined to comment further because of the ongoing nature of those investigations.
AG Shapiro indicated that nursing home management and staff will be held to the same standard of care and legal obligations during the pandemic. In a cautionary tale for providers, the AG laid out a grim set of facts that elevated nursing home neglect to the level of a criminal charge, even though the nursing home’s staffing levels never dropped below 2.7 PPD. The charges had their origin in an area hospital reporting numerous readmissions of residents in poor condition, family complaints, staff reports and complaints of chronic understaffing resulting in poor outcomes, a poor survey history and an apparently poor compliance plan and oversight. In his presentation, AG Shapiro focused on allegations that the facility made large profits during the period of the negligent staffing yet made the choice not to increase staffing.
Shapiro went on to discuss that there are several criminal investigations ongoing into nursing homes during the time of COVID and the OAG will be making the announcements that can be made regarding those investigations “relatively shortly.” AG Shapiro emphasized that the regulatory burdens on nursing homes to adequately staff that exist remain “pre-COVID, post-COVID and during COVID.” The AG announced that the case is novel in that a corporate executive is being held accountable rather than a front-line worker, however, in a warning to executives and nursing home administrators in particular, AG Shapiro announced that executives will be held accountable for reckless endangerment rising to the level of criminality. In addition to the criminal penalties in the form of imprisonment and restitution imposed, the AG announced fines and civil penalties imposed on the nursing facility.
If you have questions or concerns regarding OAG investigations, executive criminal liability for understaffing, and compliance steps you can take proactively to avoid liability, please contact Daniel Natirboff, Esq. (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Bruce Baron, Esq. (email@example.com) via email or by phone at 717-233-4101.
Daniel Natirboff, Esq., will present “Criminal/ OAG Investigations of Nursing Homes: Best Practices” at our upcoming full-day “Current Issues Affecting Pennsylvania Nursing Facilities” seminar that will take place on Friday, August 20th at the Holiday Inn in Grantville. More details on the seminar will be posted on our website and distributed via email within the next week.