Photo by George Lauby
The Pawnee Assisted Living Hotel must bring in an outside consultant for at least a year to ensure the hotel comes into compliance with state regulations, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services has ruled.
The HHS action caps a five-month investigation into the hotel during which 35 violations of state regulations were confirmed.
In May, three HHS inspectors personally visited the hotel to look into complaints and interview staff. They issued their report in early July, showing the hotel was behind on payroll as well as gas and electric bills.
The report also said the hotel was dirty and dimly lit, meals did not measure up to nutritional standards, the administration did not properly administer medications at times, and failed to do an adequate background check of at least one employee.
The 40-page report detailed dozens more deficiencies and substandard practices, but said there was no immediate adverse affect on the health, safety or security of residents.
In turn, Pawnee Executive Director Sandy Schade appealed the HHS findings. She told the Bulletin the hotel is one of the few places in central and western Nebraska devoted to providing care to people with extremely low incomes, including those who are solely supported by Medicaid.
Schade met informally with a hearing officer in August.
As a result of that meeting, about a half-dozen deficiencies were deleted from the final HHS determinations, but most of them remained, and the HHS officially put the hotel on probation for a year.
In August, several employees told the Bulletin that they had not been paid, in at least one instance, for up to three months. They said state officials listened to their complaints but didn’t do anything to help.
The HHS notice does not directly address late paychecks, but HHS stipulates that the hotel must meet financial obligations.
“One has to assume they are in dire need of more resources,” the HHS reviewer said.
Schade told the Bulletin the latest HHS action comes as no surprise, but she is disappointed that more of the defiencies were not removed after the informal conference.
The hotel cannot take in new residents until it comes into compliance, the HHS said. The hotel had about 73 residents in May, but about 20 have gone elsewhere since then, Schade said.
According to the disciplinary action, the hotel must:
• Maintain the living environment and maintenance to ensure proper cleaning and maintenance.
• Meet financial obligations to pay the staff.
• Properly train staff and management.
• Meet financial obligations to pay essential utility services.
This report was first published in the Oct. 10 print issue of the Bulletin.