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Do Chicago Facilities get Tips before Inspections?

Published on October 7th, 2010

The Chicago Tribune and KWQC had articles on the investigation into alleged tip offs to facilities before inspections.  State authorities are investigating whether a city Department of Family and Support Services official tipped off a Chicago nursing home to a surprise inspection led by the state attorney general’s office that was designed to protect vulnerable residents at the facility.  Officials and advocates for the elderly and disabled call unannounced inspections the backbone of safety enforcement, but the alleged security breach added to long-held suspicions that some nursing homes have been given advance warning of state inspections.

When a team of law enforcement officials arrived at the Grasmere Place nursing home in Uptown for the surprise "Operation Guardian" sweep on July 22, facility administrator Celeste Jensen was waiting for them in the lobby. "What took you so long?" Jensen asked.  Under questioning by authorities with the state attorney general’s office, Jensen said she had been warned of the impending sweep by a city official whose job was to safeguard elderly and disabled people in nursing homes.

Officials expressed outrage at the alleged leaking of the sweep. Grasmere was fully staffed and bustling with painters and carpenters, said the attorney general’s deputy chief of staff, Cara Smith, and state long-term care ombudsman Sally Petrone, who both took part in the raid.

 

When officials returned to Grasmere for an unannounced follow-up sweep on the night of Aug. 16, there was less staff and the facility was in less pristine condition, according to Smith. "What we experienced was literally night and day," she said.

One industry executive recently alleged to public health officials and the attorney general that a health department supervisor was providing advance copies of a monthly "master schedule" of inspections to a Chicago-area nursing home executive in return for cash, sports tickets and other gratuities.

The attorney general began sweeping nursing homes in December in response to Tribune reports about residents being assaulted, raped and even murdered by other residents in facilities that house high numbers of felons and sex offenders. The 17 raids have led to 20 arrests of offenders with outstanding arrest warrants, Smith said.

Despite the alleged tipoff of the July 22 sweep, Petrone said authorities still found problems at Grasmere. Going room to room visiting residents, Petrone’s ombudsmen staff found "a lot of them seemed overmedicated," she said.

Authorities are now more closely guarding the schedule of the sweeps and are limiting the number of agencies involved, Smith said. "We have tightened the information loop," she said.
 

Joe Pioletti
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