Reports show years of problems at Maryville adult home

Issues at Blount County facility include volunteers left alone without staff, bed bugs, 6-year-old food in pantry and unsafe living conditions

Whispering Pines

MARVYILLE (WATE) – An adult mental health supported living facility in Maryville was suspended in March, but state inspection records from the Tennessee Department of Mental Health show issues at the facility spanned years without corrective action.

State regulators stopped Whispering Pines, located at 2738 East Broadway Avenue from accepting new residents after an inspection on January 27 that showed 71 deficiencies cited at the facility. On March 13, six people who were staying at the home were moved to another location by Catholic Charities and Benevolent Client Services. Neither organization is involved with Whispering Pines.

Previous story: Blount County adult home under investigation

Problems at the facility included repeated issues with bed bugs, complaints that residents were not receiving proper care, poor condition of the building, mail for residents sitting unopened and lack of supervision by staff for volunteers. WATE 6 On Your Side reached out to Whispering Pines over multiple weeks for a response. The person we spoke to said they were not interested in giving a statement to the media.

Care of residents

Whispering Pines had multiple issues with patients’ diet. On Mach 3, 2016, the inspector writes that there was not any documentation of any meals served. During that same inspection, the surveyor noted that a resident was washing a staff member’s clothing for her.

On February 21, 2017, outdated food from 2011 was found in the facility. Facility staff also admitted they do not make adjustments for dietary needs of residents, such as those with diabetes.

One resident who had diabetes was not provided with a new blood glucose meter or strips. According to the inspector, the staff was notified that the old meter was not operating, but did not help get a new meter. The client continued to use the broken meter with used test strips, even though a nurse advised the staff the meter was inaccurate and not working properly.

Residents were also not provided breakfast within 14 hours of their evening meal. State law requires three balanced meals and no more than 14 hours elapsing between an evening and breakfast meal.

The inspector also writes that “mail dated sent to clients in 2015 from community providers, including mental health providers, was found at the facility unopened and confirmation of unpaid bills by pharmacy provider was discovered by the department.”

On October 27, 2016, the University of Tennessee Medical Hospital, Blount Police Department and the licensure office reported difficulty reaching Whispering Pines by telephone. “The facility is responsible for the care and welfare of 16 residents,” writes the inspector. “The facility must have reliable means of communications and must respond immediately to messages left by other entities who are proving service, etc. to their residents.”

There was also incomplete medical information for clients on multiple occasions. On August 25, 2014, the inspector writes that one resident had no evidence of a physical exam since April 2013. A second resident had no evidence of a physical exam since 2012.

Bed Bugs

Whispering Pines had multiple issues with bed bugs that spanned over at least three years.

On August 25, 2014, the facility was cited for note reporting a bed bug infestation. The inspector notes that three residents were removed from their bedrooms because of the infestation and were found sleeping on couches.

A similar issue was recorded in an inspection on March 3, 2016. The surveyor said Whispering Pines did not report an outbreak of bed bugs.On November 30, 2016, the facility had bed bugs and lice.

On November 30, 2016, inspectors noted bed bugs and lice at the facility. Staff were also shaving residents heads to control lice, according to the report.

Volunteers with no supervision from staff

On an inspection on November 30, 2016, two volunteers were left at Whispering Pines without the supervision of a staff member. Volunteers are required by the state to be under the supervision of staff members. The two volunteers also had no personnel records.

In an inspection three months, the facility had the same issue. The surveyor said volunteers were working with no direct-care staff on site on February 10, 2017 and February 13, 2017.

In a return visit on February 21, 2017, the inspector notes that the facility had “repeatedly left residents under supervision of volunteers ever after several discussions and meetings with the owner” and “all service recipients living in the facility were subject to being neglected by facility owner and staff due to failure to provide adequate supervision, meals and living environment.”

The inspector also noted at staff and volunteers reported they were not trained and there had been on evidence of training found at any visit in 2017. On March 3, 2016, the inspector notes there was no documentation of training for any staff member since October 11, 2014.

Facility in disrepair

On virtually every inspection by the Tennessee Department of Health, there were critical issues with Whispering Pines’ facility. Some of the issues spanned multiple inspections with no change.

On November 21, 2014, the inspector says the flooring at the top of the stairs was “very unstable and could cause a fall.” Railing at the same set of stairs was also listed as unstable.

On June 21, 2015, the inspector said there was a week where the air condition was not working properly. The inspector writes that the “home was not at all comfortable.”

In an inspection on March 3, 2016, flooring in the kitchen, dining areas and hallways had several places where the flooring was ripped or pulled up and not repaired. There were also several holes or rips in the flooring, which created tripping hazards at the time of the inspection.

On that same visit, the inspector notes a window in the front living area was broken and have been covered with plastic and “the front of the facility had the appearance that it was hit by something very large – possibly a vehicle. The front wall had siding that had holes in it was and was partially detached and touching the ground at the time of the inspection.”

The door knob to the main entrance was loose and the inspector noted a large hole through the door that was covered with tape. They also note that the outdoor facility had trash and junk piled in and around outdoor seating space.

Also, a urinal was not working in the men’s bedroom and the women’s bedroom did not have a working light and the door was propped open, leaving anyone who used it exposed to the hallway.

On November 30, 2016, the inspector notes the ceiling near the front door was leaking. On February 21, 2017, staff did not report a loss of water for a “significant time period” at the facility.

Not following safety standards

Certain standards, such as monthly testing of fire alarms are required by the state. However, Whispering Pines seemed to have deficiencies and even times when staff admitted to lying on documentation of testing emergency equipment.

March 12, 2014, testing of a fire alarm system was not completed. In another inspection on March 18, 2016, the staff member admitted she never completed any of the testings for emergency exit lights, fire safety drills or smoke detection devices, yet she signed documentation saying the test were completed. She said she believed the test had been done but admitted she was not aware what constitute a 70-minute test of the emergency lights.

On that visit, the inspector noted that the fire extinguisher was not easily accessible because a dining table was placed directly in front of it against a wall.

On a March 3, 2016 inspection, the surveyor writes that staff was unable to operate the facility’s alarm system and perform a fire drill. The inspector returned to the facility on March 17, 2016 to observe the fire drill and staff members were still unsure about how to complete the fire drill.

Staff had to call someone for instructions and were unable to set off the alarm without the assistance of the surveyor. During the drill, the inspection notes that a resident did not evacuate and the facility’s pet dog was left inside the house.

More: Full inspection report

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