Nursing home to pay $2.5 million

ATLANTA - A Lawrenceville nursing home has agreed to pay $2.5 million to resolve federal and state allegations that the facility neglected elderly residents and failed to provide them with proper care.

Officials heralded the lawsuit as the largest settlement against a single nursing facility in the country to date.

Life Care Center of Lawrenceville's failure to give appropriate nursing care to its residents allegedly resulted in at least three premature deaths, U.S. Attorney David Nahmias said in a press conference Thursday in Atlanta. Five whistle-blowers who lodged the initial complaint had family members that were residents of the nursing home.

The U.S. Attorney's Office and state Attorney General Thurbert Baker's office announced they recently conducted a joint investigation into activities at the 125-bed facility at 210 Collins Industrial Way in Lawrenceville. That investigation, which Baker described as "very complex and paper-intensive," prompted federal and state authorities to join private citizens in a lawsuit in December.

The lawsuit alleges severe understaffing, inadequate employee training, high turnover, an ineffective medical director, poor nursing documentation and a tight budget led to inadequacies in the facility's nursing care.

"This case demonstrates that the government will not tolerate a nursing home's failure to provide adequate care to the elderly, our most vulnerable citizens," Nahmias said.

In exchange for dismissing the lawsuit, the U.S. government will receive $1,092,000 for damages sustained by the Medicare program and $604,800 for damages sustained by Medicaid. Georgia will receive $403,200 for damages from its Medicaid program. The three private citizens who originally filed a civil action against the company will each receive $400,000.

Life Care, a Cleveland, Tenn.-based company, operates more than 250 nursing home facilities across the country. As part of the settlement, the company also agreed to enter a corporate integrity agreement. The company will implement several of the government's recommended policies and procedures to ensure it is complying with laws governing patient care.

Life Care will also appoint an independent monitor to oversee operations in Lawrenceville for up to five years. The company plans to voluntarily apply the terms of the agreement to all its facilities, Nahmias said.