The Honolulu Advisor had a terrible story about a nursing home resident evicted and left at the emergency room of a hospital days before Christmas. The 81-year-old woman was confined to a wheelchair wearing only a hospital gown.
Florence Ko told The Advertiser she had no idea what was happening and where she would be staying when she was taken from Nu’uanu Hale, where she had lived since July 2007. "I wish someone (at the nursing home) had the courage to tell me what was going on," Ko said in a brief interview last week from her bed at the ‘Aiea facility.
When she was left at Straub, Ko had no personal belongings except her purse, which contained less than $3 and her cell phone — but not the charger, according to members of her church who have been helping her.
The Department of Human Services, the agency that investigates elder abuse, called Nu’uanu Hale’s actions inappropriate and was referring the matter to the Department of Health, which licenses Hawai’i nursing homes.
Nu’uanu Hale was one of six Hawai’i nursing homes last month to receive the poorest rating possible from the federal government in a newly created system for publicly assessing quality of care at the nation’s roughly 16,000 homes. The nursing home received a single star out of a possible five.
First Unitarian members, who have been helping Ko in recent years as she became increasingly less mobile because of polio-related ailments, and the family have been trying to get Medicaid to cover Ko’s long-term-care bills, just as the government insurance program does to some degree for income-eligible seniors, the church members said. Ko’s application, however, has twice been rejected, they said. Even though she received regular income from Social Security and an annuity, the amount wasn’t enough to cover her nursing-home tab.
Church members said they were told Ko was taken to Straub to get treatment for an anxiety problem. While she was there, she used her cell phone, clearly upset about not knowing what was happening. But the line abruptly cut off during their conversation and the lay minister couldn’t reach her friend after that.
Ko, an articulate, feisty woman with a head full of white hair and an occasional memory lapse, said she had thought her financial situation with Nu’uanu Hale was going to be resolved. Yet when she returned to her room after physical therapy on Dec. 17, her personal belongings had been piled on a gurney and people were cleaning her room, she said.
"To just kind of toss you out — that’s it," she said. Later that day, Ko’s belongings were placed under a tarp outside Nu’uanu Hale, where church members later retrieved them.
Because Ko’s finances apparently did not allow her to qualify for Medicaid but were too little to cover her nursing-home tab, she is part of a growing "gap group" that increasingly will have a tough time affording the long-term care they need as they enter their 70s, 80s and 90s, experts say.