Vanessa Absher and Lynda Mitchell are nurses that worked for years at the Momence Meadows Nursing Center, a 140-bed skilled nursing facility in Illinois that houses disabled and elderly patients, the majority of which are Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries.
According to Ms. Absher and Ms. Mitchell’s qui tam lawsuit, a number of residents at the facility received grossly substandard care for which Medicare and Medicaid were billed. They also allege that they were directed to falsify patient and medication records to reflect that care and medication were given; and staffing records, to show minimum staffing levels were reached. They were also told to “rechart” patient records, in order to conceal events that led to the injury, illness, or death of some residents.
The nurses allegedly complained to management about the inadequate care being provided to residents, the failure to provide medications and meals to patients, the appalling condition in which residents were found, and other incidents involving the facility’s employees. They also supposedly complained to their supervisors that the facility failed to comply with federal and state laws governing quality of care.
In response, the facility allegedly subjected Ms. Mitchell to continuous verbal abuse and hostility, and she was told to “shut her mouth” and told she could be terminated if she continued to complain. Ms. Mitchell was terminated three days after one of facility’s residents died. When Ms. Absher learned that Ms. Mitchell was terminated, she felt she had no other reasonable choice but to resign. In response, the facility allegedly tried to prevent other employers from hiring them. In fact, according to the nurses, the facility even fabricated charges against both women with the Illinois Department of Professional Regulation.
Ms. Absher and Mitchell’s exceptional qui tam attorneys tried the case before a jury, and late Friday, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the nurses and the federal government, finding defendants knowingly provided worthless services to the nursing home residents. The total verdict was over $28 million, and their share in this healthcare fraud skilled nursing facility case will be over $7 million.
More information for whistleblowers is located at the Nolan Auerbach website.