Photo of a patient at facility in Jackson Township sparked state investigation.
JACKSON TWP. State officials who reviewed a complaint made against Altercare Nobles Pond stated in a verbal exit conference with the facility's management Friday that the complaint was unsubstantiated.
A spokesman for the Ohio Department of Health noted, however, that until a final, written report is issued, the investigation remains open.
Last weekend, a family friend of an Altercare Nobles Pond resident posted a photo on Facebook showing a elderly resident sitting in a wheelchair next to a counter with her head on a pillow. Family members already had complained to Altercare staff about the situation, which prompted the state investigation.
In the Facebook post, family friend Julia Wiggins said she and the son of the woman pictured found her face-down on a pillow in the nurses' station after being told she had been moved to a different room.
"People please keep a close check on any of your loved ones if they are in these places, if you don't, you might be preparing for a home going service before you were ready to do one," she wrote in the post. "I did call the Executive Director Saturday night and she finally got back to me later Monday afternoon. I'd hope this post goes viral so others will be aware of the maltreatment going on in these over priced nursing facilities!!!!!"
The woman's son declined to comment Friday, and Wiggins referred The Canton Repository to the comments in her post.
Altercare issued a statement Friday afternoon that it "received the preliminary report from the Ohio Department of Health, which states that the complaint was found to be unsubstantiated." The preliminary report means state health officials "found there is no evidence that the accusations made against us are true," an Altercare representative wrote in an email.
The state health department's Akron district office will review the preliminary report. Additionally, no citations would be issued related to the complaint as it now stands. Health officials said they were reviewing the complaint with the Ohio Department of Aging.
Altercare officials said they learned of the complaint Feb. 15. "We have followed the protocol established regarding any allegation, including immediately reporting the concern to the Ohio Department of Health and completing an internal investigation," the company said in a statement.
The statement concluded: "The resident is in no distress and remains well cared for by the Altercare Nobles Pond team of dedicated professionals. She is comfortable and safe."
Altercare officials said the Nobles Pond staff is in contact with the patient's family and son, who visits daily, and acknowledged that the Nobles Pond executive director had contacted Wiggins.
Altercare Nobles Pond has a five-star rating of "much above average" on the Medicare nursing home comparison website, based on inspections of health, fire and safety, staffing and quality of resident care.
The state health department, which investigates complaints filed against nursing homes, shows a handful violations found since 2015 for Altercare Nobles Pond. They were related to: the deep-cleaning of a room after a resident returned from isolation because of an inspection, coding of patient conditions, routine testing of the facility's sprinkler systems and the proper discarding of expired medication.
The facility's last available inspection, from June 2018, showed all corrections had been made and the nursing home was in compliance.
Grades from families and residents, however, are average or worse. Of the 30 nursing homes in Stark County that have a score for overall family satisfaction, Altercare of Nobles Pond ranks 27th, according to survey results from the Ohio Department of Aging. For resident satisfaction, Altercare Nobles Pond fares a little better, coming in at No. 23 of 37 scored Stark County facilities.
Altercare Integrated Health Services is a division of Schroer Group and operates 29 nursing and skilled care facilities in Ohio and Michigan. Altercare Nobles Pond is one six facilities the company — based in North Canton — operates in Stark County.
Other Schroer Group businesses include Absolute Health Services and Leverage Purchasing Group in North Canton, and Avalon Foodservice in Canal Fulton.