Jack Hogan//April 19, 2023
//April 19, 2023
The Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs is expected to announce in the coming days the company that will assume management and operation of Charlotte Hall Veterans Home in the wake of reports of abuse and neglect at the care facility over several years.
Gov. Wes Moore has said the state will terminate the contract for Health Management Resources (HMR) of Maryland, which has managed Charlotte Hall — Maryland’s lone state-owned nursing facility — since 2002.
The state has paid HMR hundreds of millions of dollars over more than two decades to run the facility, including an 8-year contract for nearly $342 million beginning in 2017, according to the state Department of Budget and Management.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has notified HMR the contract will now end June 5, Morgan Murphy, a senior advisor for the department, wrote in an email to The Daily Record.
Moore said that, within hours of taking office, his administration learned about several cases of abuse and neglect at the care facility, including “severe infractions” hindering the health and welfare of residents.
The governor has called the reported incidents of abuse and neglect a “moral failure of government.”
“As both a combat veteran myself and as the state’s commander-in-chief, I am personally disturbed and I’m professionally enraged to learn the level of disregard that has been given to the treatment of these patriots,” Moore, a Democrat, said in March.
Russell Keogler, vice president of operations for Charlotte Hall, wrote in a statement to The Daily Record that an HMR internal investigation didn’t support the details of the reports of abuse and neglect.
“We have policies and procedures in place to prevent abuse and neglect, and we follow them,” Keogler wrote. “Our highest priority continues to be the safety, health and wellbeing of our residents, and we remain committed to a seamless transition.”
The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, though, has rated Charlotte Hall one of the worst-run nursing home facilities in the country, state officials said.
Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony Woods said during a Board of Public Works meeting Wednesday that the state is negotiating with a “highly regarded” vendor with expertise managing and operating long-term care facilities and hopes to finalize a contract “in the coming days,” though he didn’t name the company.
The state recently paid $92,000 to contract a team of registered nurses to provide baseline physical and mental wellness assessments of Charlotte Hall residents.
After receiving consent from family members or the responsible party for 213 residents, nurses completed assessments between March 21 and 31, Woods said. The assessments cost taxpayers about $24,800, he said.
Woods said findings from the reports will be made available to state officials, Charlotte Hall residents and their loved ones, and members of the public “as appropriate.”
Charlotte Hall Veterans Home, a 450-bed facility in St. Mary’s County, opened in 1985 to provide affordable assisted living and nursing home care services to older veterans.
Health inspections dating back to 2017 have found numerous incidents of abuse, neglect and other deficiencies at Charlotte Hall, according to the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
A report from August stated that Charlotte Hall staff members failed to change a resident’s diaper when needed, protect residents from abuse and neglect, properly supervise residents with documented histories of aggressive behavior, and thoroughly investigate all allegations of abuse.
In one instance, after a resident asked for help putting pillows in a closet, a nursing assistant grabbed the resident’s thumb and bent it so far back that it dislocated, the report states. The nursing assistant was later fired.
Another nursing assistant left a resident with a genetic condition that can cause the loss of muscle strength and coordination alone in a whirlpool bathtub for eight minutes, the report states. The resident was scared of sliding under the water and yelled for help, prompting other staff members to respond.
The nursing assistant who left the resident alone was later fired, according to the report.
Weeks after Moore said HMR’s contract would be terminated, Charlotte Hall’s director at the time, Michelle Cariaso, resigned, according to an April report from The Baltimore Banner. Cariaso had held the position since 2021.
State lawmakers in April voted to require that contractors operating a state-owned nursing home report any citation or fine for a deficiency or enforcement action within 30 days. Both legislative chambers voted unanimously to pass the bill, which will take effect once Moore signs it into law.
Bill sponsor Sen. Jack Bailey, a Republican representing Calvert and St. Mary’s counties, wrote in a letter to lawmakers that, “While there is currently only one state-owned nursing facility, the bill is broadly drafted to ensure that any future facilities would be covered by its provisions.”i