Illinois Public Media News

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 13, 2011

Ex-Workers Claim Contamination From Flex-N-Gate-owned Facility

Former workers at a shuttered auto parts making plant in the Detroit enclave of Highland Park say the plant may have contaminated the area with a cancer-causing chemical.

The Detroit Free Press reports Tuesday that known carcinogen hexavalent chromium was used at the Chrome Craft plant.

Saad Bolos of Madison Heights worked at the plant 17 years and says leaks included a rooftop pipe that spilled into an alley.

The Chrome Craft plant is owned by Urbana, Ill.-based Flex-N-Gate Group, a manufacturer of bumper systems for pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles. The company says it has fully investigated the claim and says it has no knowledge of leaks or violations.

Flex-N-Gate is owned by Shahid Khan, an Urbana businessman who hopes to win approval this week from NFL owners to buy the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Flex-N-Gate bought Chrome Craft in 2005. In a 2009 lawsuit, Khan said he was a partner in Chrome Craft dating back to 1993.

Four inspections at the plant from 1992 until its closure found 39 violations of environmental laws, according to documents gathered by the UAW.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality plans to investigate the claims about the plant, which closed about two years ago.

Categories: Business, Health

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 12, 2011

Danville School Integrates Health & Wellness Into Curriculum

Northeast Elementary Magnet School in Danville has earned national recognition for its approach to fighting childhood obesity --- by teaching its students how to stay healthy. It's the subject of the first report in our WILL-Connect initiative on health and wellness. Reporter Lisa Braddock paid a visit to the school to see how the program works.

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Categories: Education, Health, Recreation


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 06, 2011

Choosing the Right Nursing Home

A CU-CitizenAccess report about nursing homes in Champaign County tells how homes accepting Medicare and Medicaid funding were rated by the federal government. Many of the homes did poorly in the ratings, and an official with one of those facilities said the federal rating system was flawed. An advocate for nursing home residents, Tami Wacker, said the rating system is a useful tool when trying to choose a nursing home, but it's not perfect. Wacker said there is a lot more to consider when looking for the right facility. Wacker is Operations Manager and a Regional Ombudsman with the East Central Illinois Area Agency on Aging. The Bloomington-based agency serves seniors and persons caring for them in a 16-county area. Wacker spoke with Illinois Public Media's Jim Meadows.

(Photo by Darrell Hoemann)

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Categories: Health

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 04, 2011

Champaign Co. Nursing Homes Get Low Marks

(With additional reporting by Pam G. Dempsey/CU-CitizenAccess and former University of Illinois journalism student Sabrina Santucci)

An elderly man with Alzheimer's leaves a local nursing home without staff noticing and is found wandering into traffic on Mattis Ave in Champaign.-

A patient in a nursing home in Champaign is left unattended on a bed pan for hours until its shape cuts into her flesh.- In another home a patient who should be only on soft foods is given orange slices that ultimately caused his choking death a few hours later.

These are just a few of the numerous examples of lack of care found in area-wide nursing homes.-Indeed, many nursing homes are across Central Illinois have been cited repeatedly over the past five years for safety violations that put residents at risk for untreated pressure sores, bladder infections, serious medication errors and broken bones.

In some severe cases, residents have been rushed to hospitals or even died from lack of proper care.

Inadequate staffing issues and delayed public health insurance payments are major concerns among nursing home care facilities, but they shouldn't be an excuse for poor care, said Tami Wacker, operations manager and regional ombudsman for the East Central Illinois Area Agency on Aging.

"When someone says, 'I accept you, I will admit you, I can take care of you,' they have made a promise and you need to fulfill that," she said.

A close review by CU-CitizenAccess.org of hundreds of federal and state inspection reports on 93 Central Illinois nursing homes revealed:

Fifty percent of nursing home beds that are Medicare or Medicaid certified are located in facilities rated below average by the federal regulatory site Medicare.gov.

In Champaign County, four out of the seven nursing homes - which have 75 percent of nursing home beds that are available to Medicare or Medicaid recipients - are rated below average.

Central Illinois nursing homes have paid more than $1 million in fines and penalties for violations between 2006 and 2010.

State inspectors have found that low staffing levels and inadequate training have contributed to resident injuries and deaths at some nursing homes in Central Illinois.

Nursing home administrators across Central Illinois and health care advocates alike acknowledge that rating systems, such as The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid on Medicare.gov, do have problems. And nursing home owners say that late Medicaid reimbursements from the state are increasing their woes.

"But it does give a very good base." Wacker said.

Wacker's office acts as an advocate for nursing home residents across counties in Central Illinois. A private, non-profit group, it handles about 600 complaints each year from across nearly 200 long-term care homes and they report problems to the state when serious health care issues arise.

On the regulatory front, long-term care facilities are certified through the federal agency for receiving Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements, but they are licensed through the Illinois Department of Health.

The health department does inspections for the federal agency during their own mandatory yearly survey. If complaints are made at a long-term care facility the department is required by federal regulations to investigate the complaint.

If facilities are funded by Medicare and Medicaid and do not meet their requirements during an inspection, then they can be decertified and lose their funding. For example, Helia Healthcare of Urbana closed in 2009 after regulators pulled its certificate for reimbursements because of poor patient care.

By law facilities have to report any problems with patient care to the Illinois Department of Public Health and then the department investigates. The state looks for a pattern; if the same type of serious violation continues to occur then processes to revoke the facility's license can begin.

"Each home is very different. What you are see in one facility may not correlate to another, direct comparisons are not possible it's like comparing apples to oranges," said Melaney Arnold, spokeswoman for the state public health department.

"Having them come in and write that deficiency will show that facility, you've got to change your way because this level of care is not acceptable," Wacker said. "And if it's not acceptable for this resident, it's not acceptable for anybody else, currently or in the future, and we want to get that changed immediately."

Nursing Homes Criticize Rating System

Greg Wilson, vice president of quality management for Petersen Health Care, sharply critizes the ratings. Petersen Health Care operates dozens of for-profit nursing homes across the state and the reports reviewed for nine of its facilities in Central Illinois rated those homes below average.

Wilson wrote in an email, "The system is based on a very subjective state survey process that is inconsistently applied across the country, faulty staffing statistics, and quality measures that are affected by too many factors to be descriptive of any resident's actual clinical condition or needs."

He wrote the system "makes no accommodation for the wide disparity between Medicaid reimbursement rates paid throughout the country of which Illinois is historically ranked at the very bottom. The rating has very little or no bearing on the quality of care being provided at any nursing home in the country."

President and chief executive officer Deb Reardanz of the nursing home Clark-Lindsey Village in Urbana said that while the rating system is good for consumers, "it doesn't always capture the full picture."

Clark-Lindsay is rated at average with its current rating of three out of five stars.

"I do not believe that tells the full story," she said. "We are above average and we work hard to be a leader in the field, not just in the area, but throughout the state."

She said the home received too low a rating.

"We're not satisfied with the (rating)," she said.

Inspections and Fines

Whether the ratings are warranted, the deficiencies reported can be shocking.

In one incident in May 2009, a crying and disoriented a man stumbled into the busy lanes of South Mattis Avenue in Champaign during rush hour traffic. Police reports say a passerby called to report the man in the street. The man, a patient at Helia Healthcare of Champaign, had left the nursing home and into the four-lane road without anyone noticing.

According to state quarterly reports the passerby stated, "What scared me so bad was that no one from the nursing home knew he was there!"

The man, who had been admitted to Helia Healthcare of Champaign the month before, suffered from Alzheimer's disease. Reports said he wandered out of a door left open with its alarm off while the nursing home was doing maintenance.

But it wasn't the last time a resident had left the facility without the staff's knowledge.

In January 2010, a 53-year-old man with Parkinson's disease and a history of mental disorders was able to leave the facility without anyone noticing. He had been admitted to the nursing home after he "had fallen at home and was found living in unsanitary conditions."

He later told inspectors that he walked out the front door that morning to get a cup of coffee at a local restaurant and rode the bus before he was found later walking along Mattis Avenue, according to a state report. By his estimate, he was gone from the facility for about three hours before staff noticed.

Araceli Henson, administrator, at the Helia Healthcare in Champaign canceled two scheduled interviews for comment.

Choking Death

In summer of 2009, Champaign-Urbana Regional Rehab Center, formerly known as Carle Arbours, was fined $10,000 after a patient choked on mandarin orange slices, ultimately causing his death the next day.

The resident was required to have a pureed diet, and was found with no pulse and solid food protruding from his mouth by a certified nursing assistant, according to a report. It took 24 minutes from the time the staff found the man unresponsive till the time someone called 911.

The home's director of nursing later told investigators that orientation for new employees did not include training for the Heimlich maneuver, CPR, how to respond to resident emergencies or how to use the telephone system in an emergency, according to the report.

One certified nursing assistant told inspectors: "It was a lot of back and forth running around. Afterwards one of the other CNAs asked me why I didn't use the phone in the dining room to call for help or page someone. I didn't even know to use them for emergencies. I should have been told to do that in orientation but they never told me that. It would have saved a lot of time."

An emergency room doctor who treated the man told the inspectors: "I would expect anyone in a medical situation to be informed of the basic life support systems and know how to rapidly access ... (emergency medical systems)."

Administrators at the home did not respond to numerous attempts to reach them for comment.

Champaign County Nursing Home

In another incident in March of this year, a Champaign County Nursing Home resident was left on a bedpan for six hours, which resulted in a pressure sore. The sore - shaped like a bedpan - became infected and turned into a blood infection that required hospitalization and medication.

An employee told investigators, "I looked at her backside and it was split open. When I saw it I said, 'Oh my God' because I saw pink meat. I went and got the nurse."

The nursing home was fined $25,000 in April for the incident.

Champaign County Nursing Home paid nearly $80,000 for violations between 2006 and 2010. In October, Chuck Schuette took over as its administrator and inherited all of its problems.

"I do know that it's really difficult trying to be in compliance with all of these issues," he said. "I'm not saying they don't need to be there, but you have to have a really dedicated work force, a highly-trained workforce and they just have to stay on top of it all the time. "

He added, "And sometimes things happen and you hate it when it does and you have to correct it."

The county nursing home also has been under intense financial pressure because of late Medicaid payments from the state.

But for Schuette, like others, money isn't the main concern.

"If the resident isn't number one in your facility, then how can you expect it to be successful?" said Chris Kasper, administrator of Country Health & Rehab in Gifford. "This is their home and this is who we care for. Regardless of public health ratings and all the inspections, all that aside, it really just comes down to the morals and ethics, you know, what can you do? It's not always about your bottom line."

Map: Champaign County Nursing Homes - 40 Percent Are Below Average:

 

Categories: Government, Health, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 02, 2011

Governor Expected to Sign Measure Restoring Prairie Center Detox

It's now up to Governor Pat Quinn to restore nearly $30-million to substance abuse treatment programs around the state.

Funds approved by the Senate this week include $450-thousand for Urbana-based Prairie Center Health Systems. CEO Bruce Suardini says the facility has been without that money since July, when it cut both the detox program and staff.

Provided the governor signs the measure, Suardini says it would take about a month after that before Prairie Center would get a revised contract. And when that money is restored, he says it will take some time to ramp up staff that was laid off when the fiscal year started.

"It's not a light switch. Just because the governor passes this, then a contract has to come to you, then it's specific as to how you can spend it," Suardini said. "Then you have to hire and train a staff to get it all back up and going, and try to expend the money before it all runs out by June. So, that's why I'm saying it's so schizophrenic is that it really puts the client in a bad situation."

The bill now before the governor would include nearly $17-million for addiction treatment services, and $7-point-6 million for related treatment for Medicaid patients. Suardini says Quinn is expected to sign the measure.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - November 30, 2011

Greater Community AIDS Project Marks World Aids Day in Champaign

Greater Community AIDS Project Director Mike Benner

World AIDS Day in Champaign is Thursday, Dec. 1, and it is being marked by a free showing of the documentary "We Were Here." The film is about the fight against AIDS when it first appeared in San Francisco's gay community 30 years ago. The 5:30 PM showing at the Illinois Terminal Building is sponsored by the Greater Community AIDS Project (GCAP).

Illinois Public Media's Jim Meadows spoke with GCAP's director, Mike Benner about the services they provide, and Benner's own experiences as a person living with HIV. GCAP provides support services for people with HIV and AIDS in a ten-county region, including low-cost housing, food assistance and emergency financial aid. The agency is funded by government grants and private donations raised mostly through local fund raising events. One of them is coming up Saturday, Dec. 3 at the Levis Faculty Center on the University of Illinois campus in Urbana. The GCAP 2011 Holiday Gala Fundraiser will feature dinner, live music and an auction.

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Categories: Community, Health

AP - Illinois Public Media News - November 30, 2011

More Illinois Parents Opting out of School-Required Vaccines

More Illinois parents are opting out of some school-required vaccinations for their kids, according to a new study by the Associated Press.

The study says the rate of vaccine exemption is 5.3 percent in Illinois, making it one of eight states where more than five percent of public school kindergartners do not get all the vaccinations that are required for attendance. Alaska had the highest rate, at nine percent.

Dr. Kenneth Soyemi works in the infectious disease department at the Illinois Department of Public Health. He said parents seek exemptions for some vaccines for medical, religious and, in states that allow it, philosophical reasons. Soyemi said kids who don't get vaccinated could make diseases like measles and whooping cough harder to contain.

"Presuming children are not vaccinated in the school, if measles comes into the school, it's going to spread like wild fire," Soyemi said.

The survey also found more than half of all states have seen at least a slight rise in vaccine exemptions in last five years. Illinois is one of 10 states where the rate of vaccine exception increased more than 1.5 percentage points.

Categories: Government, Health, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - November 30, 2011

Ill. Supreme Court to Consider Abortion Dispute

The Illinois Supreme Court has agreed to consider a dispute over whether the state must begin enforcing a law requiring parents to be notified before their children can obtain an abortion.

The law dates back to 1995 but has never been enforced because of various court actions.

It would require doctors to notify the guardians of a girl 17 or younger before she has an abortion. There are exceptions for emergencies and cases of sexual abuse, and girls could bypass the notification requirement by going to a judge.

Opponents claim it violates the privacy, equal protection and gender-equality clauses of the Illinois constitution.

The Supreme Court said Wednesday that it will hear arguments on whether to start enforcing the law.

Categories: Government, Health, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - November 23, 2011

Ill. Workers Suspended over Money to Help Disabled

The Illinois Department of Human Services suspended two employees without pay after an investigation found they had allowed improper expenditures in a state program of up to $100,000.

Agency spokeswoman Januari Smith says Pamela Clay-Wilson and Dawn Laga were suspended for 20 days and received additional training. A third employee implicated in the report by the Office of the Executive Inspector General _ Madesa Dickerson _ left her job a year ago.

The three oversaw 76 clients of an educational and vocational program for the disabled who qualify for state payment for some items like work uniforms.

But the report found $500 went for funeral expenses, $200 to meet a lawyer about child custody and more.

Laga declined comment. Attempts to reach Clay-Wilson and Dickerson were unsuccessful.


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