The Catholic University of America

 

The Grant Park Care Center nursing home is widely considered among the worst in the nation's capital. Two CUA law students have helped its residents get the government's attention.

CUA Legal Clinic Students Help Turn Spotlight
on Substandard D.C. Nursing Home

A recent report prepared by two Catholic University general practice clinic students has captured the attention of the District of Columbia's Department of Health and forced it to address numerous allegations of substandard care at an area nursing home.

The Grant Park Care Center nursing home facility in northeast Washington, D.C., has been the subject of many complaints from residents and their families, from city health inspectors and from health care advocates for the elderly. D.C. Long Term Care Ombudsman Jerry Kasunic says his staff "has actually filed over 100 complaints with the Department of Health," calling Grant Park one of the worst, if not the worst he's seen.

The nursing home was also the subject of a broadcast report aired by WJLA-TV in the fall of 2008, which quoted an unidentified emergency room doctor as stating that he routinely sees patients from Grant Park Care Center on the verge of death because of neglect.

Despite the widespread criticism, including reports of malnutrition, dehydration and anemia among its residents, city officials have done little in response until now.

Third-year CUA legal clinic students Joshua Borean and Patrick McCormally decided to get involved. They went to Grant Park at the request of the resident council, attended monthly resident council meetings, and wrote up stories about the care the residents received at there. The students then matched up the resident's complaints with the standards set out by federal law. For example, when residents complained that portions were small and the food was often cold when it was served, Borean and McCormally found the regulations that govern food service in nursing homes and identified the sections of law that were violated.

The stories they collected from residents were poignant. For example, one resident said that she noticed that the day shift would only change her wet clothes once, right before the afternoon shift arrived, so she only drank water late in the morning to avoid sitting around in wet clothing. Another resident reported that he was always hungry, and that the two ounces of protein he received at lunch did not tide him over until dinner, so he saved his breakfast and ate it along with his lunch.

A recent e-mail from ombudsman Kasunic to CUA clinical general practice Professor Faith Mullen was complimentary about the student's report and its impact. "Trust me, it has pulled the attention of the Department of Health towards improving the culture and quality of care at GPCC. Thank you and your students for working with us on this project," wrote Kasunic.

He continued, "You should have been at the last resident council meeting when they finally introduced the paper to the whole membership and nursing home administration. All of the residents involved sat higher and straighter in their chairs that day! It was a great boost to their self esteem and empowerment."

"Grant Park is the worst nursing home in D.C. by objective measures, including the annual survey conducted by the health department." said Professor Mullen. "Jerry has been trying for the longest time to get the Department of Health to look into it, and finally, as a result of this report, they are."