More Oakwood issues uncovered

Published 10:36 pm Thursday, January 10, 2013

Suffolk’s Oakwood Assisted Living, whose owner was recently stripped of his professional operating license, has racked up 76 State Board of Social Services standards violations in 20 months.

But Oakwood’s embattled owner Scott Schuett is adamant Oakwood will continue operating despite its record. His sanction by the state Board of Long-Term Care Administrators, which included a $25,000 fine and the stripping of his license, was also in response to problems at another two assisted-living facilities he owns in Hampton and Williamsburg,

“I absolutely intend to continue” operating Oakwood, he said. “There is a huge need; these people that we serve are forgotten people.”

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Schuett said he has owned Oakwood since April 1, 2010, and that he won’t appeal the board’s findings against him.

Virginia Department of Social Services inspector Anthony Fludd uncovered the violations during 11 inspections between March 25, 2011 and Nov. 26, 2012, records show.

The violations ranged from bedbugs and a lack of furniture in rooms to more serious issues such as drug abuse and physical confrontations.

Currently, Oakwood is operating legally while an application to renew its one-year license, which technically expired at the end of September, is processed, said Joron Moore-Planter, a Social Services Department spokeswoman.

According to department records, the bedbugs were confirmed in four resident bedrooms on Aug. 9, 2011, when an alleged admission of a resident with a prohibited condition was also discovered.

The resident had been transferred from another facility where he was written up as “a danger to himself and others” after “a confrontation with staff.” He was transferred out of Oakwood 19 days later, according to records.

Fludd visited Oakwood on three occasions in April 2012 to probe what’s listed as resident on resident abuse.

He uncovered that staff failed to chart one resident’s medication changes and to obtain a mental health progress report required at least every six months.

For another resident, staff failed to obtain a recommended mental health screening, update personal and social data on the resident’s record and to fully maintain the Uniform Assessment Instrument, which gathers information used to determine appropriate care.

An inspection spanning three days in the second half of November uncovered 35 violations. “Violations cited are widespread, systemic, pervasive and with high risk ratings,” read the inspection comments, which called for a “plan of corrections” within 10 days.

Some smoke detectors were not working and orientation was not provided for new residents and their legal representatives, including informing them of emergency response procedures.

The same inspection, records say, also found that Oakwood “failed to assume general responsibility for the health, safety and well-being of the residents,” with physical as well as alcohol and drug abuse cited.

According to records, when a licensing inspector asked one resident, “Where did the bruises come from?” the resident responded, “I’ve been beaten, why do the people have to be beaten?”

In April 2012, a 92-year-old woman was flown by Nightingale air ambulance to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, where she was listed in critical condition, after being attacked at Oakwood by a 42-year-old man subsequently charged with aggravated malicious wounding.

In March 2011, when the facility was called NubJones Assisted Living Facility, a 47-year-old resident’s body was found in a ditch off Suburban Drive, just around the corner.

The department does not compare the volume of violations across facilities, Moore-Planter said, but a perusal of records suggests Oakwood has more issues than others.

For example, between Feb. 3, 2011 and Sep. 27, 2012 — roughly the same amount of time in which Oakwood had 76 violations — Allzwell Assisted Living in Chesapeake had 21 violations. Oakwood is licensed for 98 residents, while Allzwell is licensed for 74. The violations per resident at Oakwood is more than twice that at Allzwell.

The East Washington Street facility also hosts a Western Tidewater Community Services Board-run pilot program providing and coordinating care and treatment for residents with mental illness, many of whom are substance abusers.

Despite the violations, board Executive Director Demetrios Peratsakis defends the facility and its “vital” role in the community.

“In all frankness, there really isn’t any adult-living facility that I’m aware of that has not had violations,” Peratsakis said.

“I also think it’s important for folks to understand that with adult-living facilities, this is really a private residence. It sounds like a nursing home where staff have a lot of control over what folks do with their day (but) it’s like a very, very large apartment facility.”

Peratsakis acknowledged that problems at Oakwood, where the board has been involved for “the past couple of years,” have been persistent.

At any given time, Peratsakis estimated, up to 60 percent of residents at Oakwood suffer mental illness, and many of those abuse alcohol and/or drugs.

The board-run program, he said, is part of a recent nationwide push toward more-aggressive intervention.

“We have (board) staff onsite there every day, so when crises occur, we have trained clinicians there to manage the crisis,” he said.

“We really believe that because we have folks there with mental health conditions, not necessarily creating some of these (violation) issues but exposed to them, and because folks there with mental health issues contribute (to violations as well) … it really is a big part of our responsibility to do more.”