Montgomery County has ordered the Wildwood Health Care Center in Bethesda to close two of its five wings after finding that some of the home's elderly residents were living in unsanitary, roach-infested rooms and received insufficent hygienic and medical care.
According to an order signed by Frances L. Abrams, director of the county's Department of Environmental Protection, the home has until May 31 to correct any health and fire code violations and to devise a "compliance plan" to provide better staffing and sanitation maintenance.
County officials who inspected the home periodically between November 1977 and April 1978 found human feces on the floor, on wheelchairs and on the home's furniture and bedpans still full of human waste shoved under beds or in closets.
In one instance a county inspector found a jar of peanut butter sitting on a shelf next to a dirty bedpan and some spilled urine, according to county documents.
In another instance, the inspector reported she examined one of the home's chairs and found "a considerable amount of feces smashed between the upholstered chair and the cushion."
State and county medical inspectors also found that the facility had failed to give some patients their prescribed medication and medical treatment and had failed to insure that patients were seeing a physican every 60 days as require by law.
Shirley McKnight, the Wildwood home's manager, said some of the violations the county cited resulted from "pure conjecture on the part of the inspectors."
"There was never any bedpans full of feces. We have 95 totally incompetent patients (who are) not able to control their bowels or bladder. They're not always the cleanest of people. They do mess (themselves) and we do have to clean them." Mcknight said.
She said the county's inspections were unfair and that one official conducted an inspection of the floors on hands and knees using a flashlight "in any institution if you do that, you re going to find dust and dirt."
Nothing that one of the reports on the facility stated that some residents were found unwashed and wearing "untidy clothes," McKnight said two senile men there frequently refuse to be shaved or to change clothes.
The closure order would affect a maximum 72 of the nursing home's residents, most of whom are on Medicade funding. The home may continue to operate 108 beds in wings separate from those in which violations were found, according to Abrams.
Wildwood's appeal of the county's order to close two of its wings will be heard Thursday by the county Board of Appeals. If the board upholds Abram's order, the facility will be the first of its kind in the county forced to close some of its sections because of sanitary violations.
McKnight maintained that she has corrected many of the building code violations inspectors found, by replacing torn screens, and making improvements to the heating and ventilation systems. McKnight said she also had the patients' rooms sprayed against insects and rodents after an inspector reported counting 20 to 30 live roaches in one of the facility's baths.
Wildwood is owned by Samuel Sorota, who resides in Florida and who told county officials he was unware of any violations at the home since he rarely visits Montgomery County, according to county records. He said he is planning to sell the 180-bed facility.
Wildwood is also under order from the state to upgrade staffing and improve patient care, according to a spokesman from the state health department. All nursing homes in Maryland are licensed by the state, but only a few counties, including Montgomery, issue their licenses in addition to the stage's.
A spokesman for the state attorney general's office said the state may try to block the Montgomery County's closure order since it would mean that many patitents would have to be relocated in other facilties. The shock of having to move unexpectedly - called "transfer trauma" by health officials - may place undue stress on the elderly residents, the spokesman said.
He added that the state prefers to correct violations in nursing homes by seeking consent decrees the homes' management, rather than forcing homes to close and losing badly needed bed space for the state's elderly patients.
Mcknight told country officials the Wildwood home has changed directors three times in the past year and that the federal Immigration and Naturalization Service arrested 25 of the home's housekeepers last year as illegal aliens.
Nonetheless, McKnight, says she has received "100 letters" from patients' relatives who say they are pleased with the facility has been giving residents.