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Facility Accused of Neglect, Profiteering Amid Deadly Outbreak

— June 5, 2024

Lawsuit filed claiming Canyon Creek prioritized profits over the well-being of its vulnerable residents

A federal lawsuit has been filed against Canyon Creek long-term care facility in Billings, Montana, alleging that the nursing home’s corporate owners, Koelsch Senior Communities, failed to properly care for residents during a deadly outbreak amidst the COVID-19 pandemic while raking in profits. The legal matter was filed on behalf of three former Canyon Creek residents’ families, who claim the facility left seniors to “fend for themselves” as it prioritized profits over care. Allegations include incidents of residents being left alone without the ability to feed or hydrate themselves, significant weight loss due to lack of monitoring, and unreported falls resulting in injuries like black eyes.

In court documents, Canyon Creek and Koelsch have denied the allegations, arguing that many concerns were simply a result of the challenges posed by the pandemic, in general. The facility has joined a growing number of care providers claiming exemptions to shield them from liability during the deadly outbreak.

However, the lawsuit paints a troubling picture of the conditions at Canyon Creek. Depositions and filings detail issues ranging from food service problems and incorrect nursing documentation to chronic short-staffing that had been documented even before COVID-19.

One particularly disturbing account comes from the daughter of resident Mary Ann Simons, who described a severe pressure sore “as big as my fist” that was “black” and “smelled.” The family had to provide Simons with morphine for the pain and clean her themselves.

Facility Accused of Neglect, Profiteering Amid Deadly Outbreak
Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán from Pexels

Rather than addressing such care failures, the lawsuit alleges that Canyon Creek’s corporate leadership prioritized funneling COVID relief funds into their own pockets. Records show Koelsch received $879,500 in pandemic aid, with only $366,000 going to the Billings facility, while the rest apparently went to corporate operations.

Research has consistently shown that nursing home residents are at a higher risk of contracting and dying from COVID-19 due to various factors, including their age, health status, and living conditions. A study published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) found that nursing home residents have significantly reduced physical access to family, friends, and acquaintances, which are crucial components of their social support system. This isolation can exacerbate the negative effects of a deadly outbreak on their mental and physical health.

The situation at Canyon Creek grew so dire that in July 2020, that 8 resident COVID-19 deaths and over 50 infections at the facility. It was revealed that Canyon Creek had been offered free testing by the state but declined.

The lawsuit contends that the facility knew of COVID cases as early as June 30, 2020 – the day one of the plaintiffs, Elizabeth Guilford, was admitted. Depositions indicate the nurse who admitted Guilford was symptomatic but still required to work.

Attorneys representing the families say Koelsch has declined to comment on the pending litigation. Canyon Creek and Koelsch have denied the allegations in court, arguing the issues stemmed from the unique challenges of the pandemic rather than negligence.

However, the disturbing details outlined in the lawsuit paint a picture of a facility that prioritized profits over the well-being of its vulnerable residents, with tragic consequences. As COVID-19 ravaged the nursing home, the corporate leadership appears to have seized the opportunity to line their own pockets, leaving families to suffer the consequences of their alleged neglect.


Family members sue Billings nursing home for neglect while it was raking in profits during COVID

Why is COVID-19 more deadly to nursing home residents?

For-profit nursing homes are cutting corners on safety and draining resources with financial shenanigans − especially at midsize chains that dodge public scrutiny 

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