SAVOY, Ill. (WCIA) — A patient says a nursing home and rehab center in Savoy would not release her against her family’s wishes while profiting off of a treatment plan they weren’t properly providing.
Champaign-Urbana Nursing and Rehab (CUNR) did not keep up with the care Lori Dixon needed to heal and kept her past multiple agreed-upon release dates, Lori’s sister-in-law and power of attorney Lisa Dixon said.
Lisa also chairs the Board of Directors for the non-profit Champaign County Health Care Consumers.
Meyer Magence, an attorney representing CUNR disputed the Dixons’ reporting of events. Patient care notes from doctors and an external nurse practitioner would show that Lori Dixon was not kept any longer than was medically necessary, he said.
Lori was released to her Urbana home in the last two weeks after what the Dixons’ laid out as about a month and a half of requests, something Magence said the doctor was still reluctant to agree to.
Lisa said she struggled to get clear communication on the phone and during a number of in-person visits from the CUNR doctor, social worker and other administrators for more than a month, all as the clock was winding down on the time Lori’s insurance would help cover the cost of that stay.
“I thought, Oh, my God, if I’m going through this, think of all the other people,” Lori said during an interview at her home Tuesday.
She told stories of other patients not receiving timely care and hearing other patients’ calls for assistance go unanswered by a strained, small staff of nurses and CNAs.
“It was bigger than just me,” Lori said.
Lori is in the final stage of multiple sclerosis. For her, the autoimmune disease has become disabling.
“She’s able to use her right arm, she’s completely of sound mind. But much of the rest of her body is paralyzed. And so she needs some care,” Lisa explained.
Lori lies in her living room in a bed specialized to her condition. Nearby was a chair that Lisa says she and another caretaker move her in and out of to keep her strength up and to keep her from developing bed sores.
Bed sores were a part of why Lori fell deathly ill, as described by Lisa, in early April.
“My brother called me and called an ambulance and they took her to Carle,” Lisa said. “Basically she was septic and had some sores and she had a bladder infection and many infections.”
After about three weeks in the hospital, Lori was transferred to Champaign-Urbana Nursing and Rehab (CUNR), and “The saga really started there,” Lisa said.
A critical part of Lori’s treatment plan there was having the dressing on her wounds changed twice a day to ensure they didn’t get re-infected.
Lisa says, instead, “very often it happened once a day or over the weekends, very often it would not happen at all because they were constantly short-staffed.”
CUNR has a one-star overall rating from Medicare.gov, and it’s not the only Champaign County facility with that rating. CUNR also has a one-star rating for its staffing.
CUNR nurses are responsible for about 30 more patients per day than both the national and state averages, according to the website.
“Lori was just telling the story that she turned her call light on, on a Friday afternoon, and that call light did not get answered until Saturday afternoon,” Lisa said.
“Because you can’t turn it off yourself, so it just blinked for 24 hours.”
By early July, Lisa began trying to get Lori released to home care. She got insurance approval, knowing Lori’s 100 allotted days of Medicare coverage expired at the end of the month.
The CUNR social worker then said the family needed doctor approval, Lisa said, noting it was a challenge to track him down.
“We would try and set up a time to see the doctor. ‘Oh, well, he makes his rounds on Wednesday. Show up on Wednesday at 8 a.m.’ And, ‘Wait, oh, well, no. He doesn’t come until the weekend,'” she said.
Lisa said the first scheduled release date was set a couple of weeks after she began inquiring: July 19. But when the day came, Lisa was told Lori’s home care equipment wasn’t ready to go.
“All these things that the doctor was supposed to order,” Lisa said. “I really am not exaggerating this. I don’t know how to explain it except to say, it’s incredibly frustrating.”
“You do the thing that you’ve been told to do. And then they say, ‘Well, there’s one more thing you need to do.’ Well, you can’t do it, because of that, you still have to have this thing. And so this went on, and on, and on,” she continued.
July 19 became July 31 and the final day the nursing home would receive Medicare payments.
“So I did begin to feel that they were trying to keep her because of the money,” Lisa said.
Magence refuted any assertion that CUNR was motivated to keep Lori for money. He said, again, that the primary reason for not releasing Lori in July was her medical condition.
When reporters raised the cost concerns associated with her coverage running out at the end of the month and the fact that the family was wanting to set up total care at home — something the family says Lori wasn’t fully receiving at CUNR to begin with — he acknowledged the expense associated but re-asserted that it just wasn’t an option, according to staff.
July 31 came and went.
“And things get a lot darker from there, shall we say,” Lisa said.
She says two things happened once the calendar flipped to August: Lori was whisked to a smaller, shared room and got even less staff attention, and the cost of her stay became her sole responsibility.
“Nobody was ever really concerned about the pain I was in or the tears that I shed, you know, or the help I needed,” Lori said.
It was August 19, according to Lisa — a month and a half from the first attempt — that she took her sister-in-law home.
“I don’t know what I’d do without them,” Lori said through “tears of joy,” referring to her sister-in-law and another friend who she described as an advocate. “Really, I’d be there. I would have never gotten out.”
Although she is at home, Lori’s homecare was never fully coordinated, Lisa said.
Lori lives with her husband who is disabled himself and unable to tend to the extent of Lori’s medical needs. Lisa said she was traveling a lot around the time Lori fell ill in the spring. She and the other friend Lori mentioned are handling homecare full-time for now but are working toward setting up care with a nurse and additional in-home equipment.