ST. LOUIS - Will your mom or dad get proper treatment in a nursing home or end up just another head in a bed?
Marion Thompson said she left Riverview Nursing Home on South Broadway because she was being neglected.
"I screamed for a good 10 to 15 minutes and they finally came in," she said.
Thompson called us from a hospital room where she was recovering.
"They can't keep help," she said, describing problems at the nursing home. "You're lucky to have two aids on a floor." Thompson's medical records state she was admitted to the hospital partly for "dehydration and disorientation."
Records also say, "Per EMS, the (patient) hasn't been taking her medications regularly from staff."
Thompson blames the staff. "You pull for help. They come in and unplug the call light, turn it off, and then you don't see them again, even if it's for water," she said. An inspection last year led to Riverview being denied government pay for new admits. The freeze lasted three months starting last July. Federal inspectors noted hot rooms, including one measuring 90.6 degrees.
An inspector wrote "the Certified Nursing Assistants said everyone was aware it was hot in the building, including administration" and that the "Director of Nurses ... Did not think anything of it."
The report states Riverview "immediately hired a new and competent maintenance director.
Attorney David Terry represents families suing nursing homes. He said the industry is sometimes more about money than care.
"You hear the term 'heads in the bed,' because that's how they get paid, and so most of these decisions start from the ownership and they work their way down," he said. Terry said most problems start with a lack of staff.
"They will often times cut staffing to save on their bottom line because every dollar you save on staffing increases the amount you have in your bank account," he said. Terry said regulators cannot cite a nursing home for staff problems.
"In Missouri and at the federal level, there is no staffing ratio. There are some states that do have ratios, but Missouri is not one of them," he said.
"A lot of them, not all of them, base their staffing just upon fire code, which means you have a minimal amount of staff members you're required to have in case there's a fire so you can get residents out."
Terry said poor staffing at St. Sophia in Florissant led to his client's mother being left alone in a bathtub for more than eight hours in July 2017. She died as a result.
"That shower room where the bathtub is is about 15 feet from the nurse's station and nobody seemed to check on it. So it was a systemic failure, I think, primarily caused because there just weren't enough staff members in the facility at the time."
Meanwhile, Marion Thompson is working with her family to find a new facility.
"I want to live," she said. "I've been fighting to live since last February."
It was a year ago when she was healthy enough to leave hospice while living in Riverview. She said she'll keep fighting.
"I have 25 grandchildren and six kids that I love deeply," she said. Riverview did not respond to requests for comment about Thompson's claims and the government payment freeze. Regarding the bathtub case, St. Sophia's parent company MGM Healthcare wrote, "Our relationship with the facility was in its infancy when the unfortunate situation took place."
MGM added that its investments have paid off and it has increased the nursing home's government quality measures rating to "five out of five stars."
The facility itself, St. Sophia also responded, saying it now has a "new administrator (and) director of nursing."
You can view full reports of Missouri nursing homes online at the Department of Health and Social Services.
You can read the full statement from James Mason, Chief Operating Officer of MGM Healthcare, below:
"MGM Healthcare provides consulting and management services for skilled nursing facilities including St. Sophia Health and Rehabilitation Center in Florissant, MO. Our relationship with the facility was in its infancy when the unfortunate situation took place.
"When we were first engaged, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) ratings for St. Sophia were lower. Today, the CMS Quality Measures Rating for St. Sophia is five out of five stars, with the facility exceeding Missouri and national averages on many measures. We immediately began investing to improve the facility, and over time are improving its performance.
"We help create a culture within skilled nursing facilities that is focused on continuous improvement, and by so doing are dedicated to empowering better living for residents who need rehabilitation, skilled and long-term care."
Denise Thordsen, director of St. Sophia Health and Rehabilitation Center, issued this statement:
"St. Sophia is deeply committed to providing high-quality care for all of our residents. We respect the privacy of all our residents and their families, and federal law prevents us from commenting further on any specific events or treatment.
"St. Sophia is on a continual journey to be a place that is safe, comfortable, and that provides a high quality of care. Our commitment is demonstrated by the improvement in the 'star' ratings by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), a staff that includes a new Administrator, Director of Nursing and an Assistant Director of Nursing, as well as the investments we have made in the facility over the past year. We look forward to continuing to serve the Florissant community for many more years."