Injury in a New Mexico Healthcare Facility? Our Santa Fe Nursing Home Neglect Lawyer Can Help
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Known for its stunning architecture and incredible art, the city of Santa Fe is no doubt a popular spot for people to settle during their later years. Such a bustling, lively New Mexico city draws crowds from across the country, but the growing elder population has put strain on the nursing capabilities in the area. With only three nursing homes within 25 miles of the Santa Fe city center, there are not many options to choose from. This leads many families to assume that what options they’re presented with are, by nature, trustworthy and reliable. However, Santa Fe’s nursing home scene is sometimes less idyllic than people may imagine.
Unfortunately, despite Santa Fe’s popularity and small size, the city’s nursing homes are ranked as some of the worst in the nation. Underpaid staff, frequent cases of neglect, and instances of health inspection violations––as well as lack of other nursing home options––have emerged in recent news to undermine the reputation of Santa Fe nursing homes.
If you have any reason to suspect that a loved one, family member, or even someone you know is being abused, neglected, or abused in a Santa Fe nursing home, there are several steps that you can take. Santa Fe nursing home abuse attorneys can help you understand your options from both a compensation and lawsuit perspective, and New Mexico itself has passed several laws and regulations to assist families and penalize inadequate facilities. Here’s what you need to know.
What the Law Says About Nursing Home Abuse in New Mexico
Federal laws mandate that skilled nursing facilities maintain a minimum standard of quality of care, but Santa Fe itself takes additional steps to further prevent nursing home negligence, abuse, and exploitation by implementing a set of state-required hiring standards. This change came alongside facility-specific plans for advancing the safety and health of nursing home residents. Long-term care facility residents in New Mexico are required by law to have plans created by licensed health specialists or physicians regarding their care; these strategies aim to provide the residents with measurable goals and benchmarks for their stay.
Other Santa Fe regulations help to ensure the safety of nursing home residents, such as requiring nursing staff to possess certain prerequisites to be hired. New Mexico nursing staff requirements include, among other criteria:
- One member of staff for every nine to ten residents
- At least one director of nursing to work full time
- One registered nurse or licensed practical nurse available 24/7
- The role of the charge nurse can be acted upon by the director of nursing
These are just a few of the many requirements that Santa Fe nursing homes are bound by.
What’s more, under the rules of NMAC 188.8.131.52, the New Mexico Health Department requires all registered health care facilities to conduct proper investigation––complete with a conclusion on the findings––within five days of the discovery of any alleged cases of abuse or neglect. The responsible persons or staff at health care facilities should write, complete, and then send a Health Facility Complaint Investigation Five Day Follow-Up Report Form to the Division of Health Improvement Complaints Unit within five days. This is a step to keep nursing homes accountable—and yet, many incidents go underreported, and some are never reported at all.
What Abuse Looks Like in Nursing Homes in New Mexico
Before you do anything, it is imperative that you make sure you understand the nature and extent of the abuse that your loved one has experienced. If you suspect that they are in immediate danger, do not hesitate to call local authorities or an ambulance right away, even if the nursing home assures you that everything is under control.
Once any immediate danger has passed, you can begin examining the situation in more detail. If you are unsure of what to look for, some possible signs that often point to abuse and neglect in nursing homes include both physical and mental distress. Bedsores, frequent broken bones, and other injuries are commonly associated with abusive behavior.
Remember that residents of nursing homes in all of New Mexico––not just Santa Fe––have the right to communication and personalized, individual care. This is written into state law. There should be no reason why the resident cannot have communication with family, doctors, or other personnel. Nursing homes that attempt to obfuscate your loved one’s medical details or are hesitant to share full workups should be investigated further.
You can observe whether your loved one is benefitting from personalized care through observing the signs of their physical appearance. If your family member is dirty, unkempt, or is putting off a strong bodily odor, there is a chance that some form of physical abuse or neglect is occurring. Bedsores can be one cause of a foul odor, and nursing home staff may attempt to convince you that your loved one is suffering from diabetic ulcers because bedsores are a “never” event—they should never happen and are always a sign of neglect.
While physical injuries and wounds are the most common starting point for an abuse lawsuit, even failing to meet a resident’s individualized dietary requirements also counts as a sign of neglect. Staff are responsible for providing proper fluids and nutrition—and even assistance with eating and drinking if such is desired or needed. If your family member’s nutritional needs are not being met, you can usually detect some signs, such as abnormal eating patterns, abnormal or extreme weight loss, and bruises.
Another commonly overlooked sign of abusive behavior is the unprescribed use of restraints. Many understaffed nursing homes will restraint residents to make their jobs easier. However, all usages of restraints require documentation (unless in extreme cases, like emergencies). Santa Fe nursing homes typically require a physician’s approval after twelve hours of restraint use; they should not be on all the time.
Besides physical abuse, other types of abuse can occur as well. If you notice that your loved one seems depressed, anxious, or is displaying symptoms of PTSD, then there could be a possibility that they are experiencing mental abuse. This is particularly problematic to identify, since many older folks face challenges with memory and perception. You as family play a significant role in keeping them safe, even when they cannot remember what happened.
While there are not many nursing homes in Santa Fe, none of them are rated particularly well. The three nursing homes within 25 miles of the city center are:
1650 Galisteo Street Santa Fe, NM 87505
Santa Fe Care Center
635 Harkle Road Santa Fe, NM 87505
Sombrillo Nursing Facility
1011 Sombrillo Court Los Alamos, NM 87544
Of these, as of 2022, Casa Real and Santa Fe Care Center are rated at the minimum one out of five stars, and Sombrillo comes in at a two out of five. As shared below, these facilities have faced problems with proper care performance in the past.
The Steps to Report Nursing Home Abuse in Santa Fe
Any suspected abuse or neglect should always be approached with urgency. Once you have ensured that your loved one is no longer in immediate danger, you can begin the process of alerting the relevant authorities about what you have discovered.
Each state is federally required to administer an ombudsman program, which is specifically created to help the elderly and at-risk individuals who live in long-term care facilities to receive the care and treatment that they deserve. The statewide ombudsman’s number for New Mexico is 1-866-451-2901. Because Santa Fe does not have many nursing homes, it does not operate its own independent local branch; however, the statewide office can help anyone regardless of their location.
In addition to speaking with the ombudsman, if you wish to report cases of abuse, neglect, or exploitation, you may do so by filing a complaint directly to the New Mexico Department of Health. The New Mexico nursing home negligence hotline is available 24/7 at 1-800-445-6242. They are your primary point of contact for issues of resident well-being. However, if you notice an issue directly with a facility itself (such as unsanitary conditions or hazards), the agents at 1-800-752-8649 can take a report.
If you are unwilling or unable to call the numbers above, there is also the option to report facilities online. Simply follow the instructions in the Health Facility Reporting System. If your nursing facility is not within the self-managed online reporting system, simply print the paper form and mail or fax it with the tracking number to 888-576-0012.
Santa Fe Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect News
Despite the low number of nursing homes in Santa Fe itself, the city is not immune from featuring its local facilities on the news and in lawsuits due to their inadequate levels of care. At Casa Real, inspectors investigated and reported a total of “eight residents who were not given insulin on the schedule ordered by their doctor.” Moreover, inspectors discovered five serious deficiencies during one of the nursing home’s recent checks, and Casa Real faced fines totaling $122,867 from major health insurance companies within the past three years alone.
Though Casa Real has shown some improvement due to mandatory remediation, the fact remains that it took serious cases of neglect for the facility to advance.
At the nearby Santa Fe Care Center, conditions were not much better; health inspectors were called for a sooner-than-usual inspection following a complaint about transmissible disease. They discovered that staff were not following proper quarantining procedures or the wearing of personal protective equipment, resulting in all residents of the nursing home falling ill. This was attributed to the facility’s lack of proper infectious disease control.