By Darrell Todd Maurina
A Clovis nursing home could be taken over by the state if regulators prove in court that deficiencies at the facility place its more than 30 residents in “immediate jeopardy.”
State regulators called a press conference in Santa Fe Thursday to announce that Buena Vista Nursing Home in Clovis is one of three facilities they cited for improper care following an undercover investigation.
However, Buena Vista’s owner said state officials haven’t yet told him what he did wrong and that he first heard of the situation when reporters called his office on Thursday.
“I want to assure you that the residents of Buena Vista are treated well and we have one of the best staffs in the area,” said Dr. Ali Ghaffari, the medical director of Buena Vista Nursing Home.
“About two years ago our nursing home was the only one in Clovis that passed an investigation by Rep. Tom Udall, so if something is going on now I don’t know about it,” Ghaffari said.
Michelle Lujan Grisham, secretary of the Aging and Long-Term Services Department, confirmed that Ghaffari and two other nursing home managers in Ruidoso and Albuquerque didn’t know the citations were coming. Grisham said the Aging and Long-Term Services Department has recommended to the Health Department that Buena Vista be placed in receivership, which would allow the state to operate the facility.
Grisham told The Associated Press that a staff investigator accompanied a woman who was checked into the facility and posed undercover as a person with an alcohol-related problem. Grisham said the woman was able to drink alcohol while she stayed at the nursing home and at one point was able to leave the facility. The undercover resident was gone two hours before police were notified, according to Grisham.
The undercover investigation revealed things that had slipped past routine inspections, Grisham said in a Thursday evening interview.
“When we were doing our anonymous investigation, the Department of Health was also inside doing a survey. They didn’t know we were coming, and I didn’t know they were going to be there,” Grisham said. “While the Department of Health people were there, things were fine, but the minute the Department of Health left the facility, the certified nursing assistants started to call in sick and people were unable to get help. If you don’t have sufficient staff, in no way can you provide the care required.”
Ghaffari was shocked after hearing Grisham’s statements secondhand.
“Some of these allegations I’ve heard from the news media are unbelievable, like tapping the telephone conversations. Many other ones also I hear are also hogwash,” said Ghaffari, who for 14 years has co-owned the facility with his wife, the nursing home administrator.
While Gov. Bill Richardson said during the Santa Fe press conference that he wanted regulators to continue studying the other two nursing homes to see if their conditions warrant declaring that residents’ life and health are in “immediate jeopardy,” Grisham said the state will be going to court as soon as possible to remove the Buena Vista facility from control of its current managers.
“An ‘immediate jeopardy’ citation says that whatever is happening in the facility, harm is likely to residents,” Grisham said. “We get the state court’s permission to go in and correct the problems. We send in our own team so we can assure that people are safely being provided care and treated with dignity and respect.”
“Facilities fall through the cracks and residents fall through the cracks,” Grisham said. “I don’t want one more resident to suffer one more day.”
Ghaffari said he plans to respond once he’s seen the allegations.
“All we have heard is allegations … They have not been proven,” Ghaffari said. “I don’t know why they want to take us to court.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.