Traverse City Record-Eagle

May 5, 2013

Clash over who speaks for patients


---- — BELLAIRE — Lee Whipple and Penny Rogers want to advocate for patients with dementia at Meadow Brook Medical Care Facility, but they contend the facility’s top administrator shut the door to their nonprofit group.

“We want to speak for people with dementia when their families might be out of town or unavailable,” Rogers said.

But Marna Robertson, the administrator of the Antrim County-owned nursing home, said dementia patients already have advocates in another, long-standing group called the Meadow Brook Resident Council.

“To assume that family members aren’t participating is so incorrect and insulting to family members and guardians,” she said.

Rogers formed an advocacy group, Meadow Brook Family and Friends Council, in 2010 when her late husband lived there. He died in March 2011, but Rogers continued to serve as Council chair so she could speak for other dementia patients.

“I felt I was there all the time and could see things that were happening,” she said.

But Robertson said that once a person’s family member dies away or leaves, they “lose the right to have a say in the life of the facility.”

“That’s the right of the residents or their family members,” she said.

Robertson said in February she would recognize only the Meadow Brook Resident Council, comprised of residents or their legal representatives. All others must speak during a public comment before a meeting goes into closed session.

“Only my mother-in-law, who is 89 years old, can go into that meeting,” said Whipple, whose father-in-law resides at Meadow Brook. “They closed the rest of our family out.”

The two sides publicly clashed at a recent Meadow Brook board meeting.

Rogers believes the council deserves credit for Meadow Brook’s increase of quality rating. Over the years, she frequently complained about issues of hydration, infection control, and hygiene.

In 2011, the nursing home received a one-star quality rating out of five. Ten percent and 29 percent of long-stay patients suffered bed sores and depression, respectively, according to a Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services report.

The quality star rating recently increased to three.

Robertson said Rogers’ assertion “is just plain wrong.”

The measure is largely influenced by the patient population, which is in constant flux, and Meadow Brook takes in “the sickest of the sick,” she said.

The facility has an overall four-star rating, in part, from a five-star rating for staffing levels.

Federal law states that nursing homes that accept Medicaid or Medicare must respond to a family council’s grievances and recommendations for resident care. Whipple filed a complaint with the State of Michigan Long Term Care Division, which ruled in Meadow Brook’s favor.

“They do seem to have an active resident family council pursuant to the regulations,” said Jeannie Vogel, division spokeswoman.

Whipple intends to pursue other avenues for a remedy.