The serious deficiencies related in a new report on D.C. Village, a city-run nursing home with more than 400 residents, come as no surprise. The report was undertaken last year after one elderly, wheelchair-bound resident was found frozen to death outside her building and another elderly resident suffered fatal burns from scalding hot water as he tried to take a bath.
The consultants examined D.C. Village from July through September 1985 and found: residents were neglected and had few activities; housekeeping was substandard; there were too few staff members; security was poor in a facility with many confused and wandering residents; staff members paid little attention to door alarms; no security system was in place for exterior doors; air and water temperatures were poorly regulated; residents of all ages and disabilities were mixed together. And that wasn't all.
The District government now states that many improvements have been made. Says Sue Brown, director of the city's Long-Term Care Administration: "If you looked at the institution today from six months ago, it's like night and day."
Really? Every time someone takes a serious look at D.C. Village, many serious deficiencies and contradictions turn up. Take, for example, the latest report's finding of a serious staff shortage. Only last April, city officials were insisting that the staffing problem had greatly improved and that residents were getting much more care: the number of residents at D.C. Village had declined from 617 in 1981 to 432.
Policies relating to searches for missing residents have supposedly improved. But the example that city officials cite is a case in which 60 people looked for four hours to find a missing female resident, who turned up in a ditch behind the nursing home. It was, perhaps, an example of diligence. But effectiveness?
City officials say they have spent an additional $650,000 on physical improvements and training, limited admissions until more staff can be hired and begun a new quality assurance program. But D.C. Village remains troubled. The consultants thought they would be kept on to monitor the facility and see that solutions are carried out, but they have not been retained. "There are still a lot of the same problems," said Ann Hart, nursing home ombudsman for the District.