Westmoreland County agreed Thursday to pay nearly $75,000 in state and federal fines imposed after a resident was injured last year at the county-owned nursing home.
Those fines were issued following a state inspection last May at Westmoreland Manor, which revealed a nurse’s aide improperly attempted to lift a patient from a bed rather than use a required mechanical device. The resident at the Hempfield facility was injured when he fell to the ground during the attempted transfer, inspectors found.
A $14,500 fine from the state’s Department of Health and another $107,830 penalty was initially imposed by the federal government. Subsequent appeals allowed the county to negotiate the fines to $4,500 for the state penalty and $70,089 for the federal penalty, according to county solicitor Melissa Guiddy.
Commissioners blamed the fines on a “rogue employee.”
“It no way reflects the quality of care at the Manor or the dedication of the staff,” Commissioner Ted Kopas said.
The May 23 state inspection found that the unnamed aide involved was properly trained but ignored internal policy requiring him to use a mechanical lift or seek out additional help from other staffers to move the patient from a bed. Inspectors determined the aide was a relatively new employee who was not working within his usual assignment at the time of the incident.
“Upon interview, this staff member chose not to disclose why he did not ask for assistance or use the mechanical lift,” according to the inspection.
County officials confirmed Thursday the staffer no longer works for the county. The inspection noted that the aide was “terminated.”
Commissioners said they discussed recouping the fines from the employee but ultimately decided to pay the penalty using taxpayer money.
“Initially, we wanted to sue, but that would have been a stretch,” Commissioner Gina Cerilli said.
Commissioners, along with the Penn Township-based private company that operates the Manor for the county, moved this year to replace the facility’s administrator. Officials said then, and reiterated on Thursday, that the change was not related to the inspection or fines.
State inspections at the Manor are conducted several times a year. Minor violations — such as policy violations or patient care issues that don’t result in fines — are typically reported.
The county was fined nearly $25,000 from the state and federal governments in 2015 related to a series of deficiencies that included findings that staff failed to properly install bed rails, used improper procedures with the administration of catheters, served meals at unsafe temperatures, improperly stored drugs and failed to conduct fire drills.
That inspection also found the nursing home’s elevators to be in poor condition.
Commissioners said those previous deficiencies were corrected.