Care Concerns: Violations at residential care facilities you may not know about
What's going on inside Lowcountry residential care facilities? Right now, it may be difficult for the average person to get answers.
ABC News 4 started months ago looking into multiple complaints we received involving residential care facilities. The state inspects these facilities, but the public may have a hard time finding out the results.
That's because the results of the reports aren't shared publicly on DHEC's website. One must instead request the documents via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, which can take weeks.
Leslie Wright says she filed a complaint with DHEC, the agency that inspects these facilities, after she claims her brother fell several times inside of Cabading Homes in June 2017.
After one such incident, Wright says her brother had to be taken to a hospital. Wright, who says she’s listed as her brother’s emergency contact, never got a call from Cabading Homes.
It wasn't until her brother had been hospitalized nearly 36 hours that Wright says someone let her know what was happening.
“I did not find out until a day and half later. He could have been gone by then," said Wright.
Even then, it was the hospital staff that called her, not Cabading, according to Wright. Wright then filed a complaint about the incident with DHEC.
Russell Morrison from DHEC says his agency investigates every complaint it gets, and documents do show DHEC sent an investigator to Cabading Homes. Leslie says she never saw the inspection results.
Morrison says the department does not put inspection reports online because there is no current regulation that requires it.
We filed a FOIA request with DHEC asking for inspection reports, and we received nearly 300 pages of up to 30 reports, which include partial inspections, follow-up inspections, plan correction statements and audits.
In July 2016, one DHEC inspector said the bathrooms at Cabading were "just nasty," and in June 2017 other inspectors reported seeing insects crawling on residents and beds.
In the reports, Cabading’s plan for the reported insects was to call an exterminator.
The reports also included Leslie’s complaint about the notification that her brother was in the hospital. Cabading’s plan of correction? "Notify relative after an emergency."
The inspections led to 82 violations at Cabading 1 and 2, adding up to nearly $35,000 in fines.
Wright says she had no idea about the violations until ABC News 4 told her.
Allan Cabading, who manages the residential care facility, said via text message “Please respect we are working closely with DHEC concerning the compliance agreement. Cabading Homes is following their recommendations with policy and quality control changes.”
Cabading declined to speak on camera.
DHEC says it will continue to inspect Cabading Homes as the facility works on fixing its violations. The department says it received in November the first payment from Cabading Homes 1 and 2 on its fines
State representative Wendell Gilliard has introduced legislation for several years pushing for changes at assisted living facilities. A 2017 bill calling for improved training and staffing at the facilities didn't pass. Since then, he's filed a new bill, pushing for the same changes.
Gilliard says, "Both bills address the problem: that we need a better educated work force ... (and) we need more people in these entities."
When we told Gilliard you cannot find DHEC's inspection reports for residential care facilities online, the Charleston lawmaker said he wants to add inspection notifications to his bill.
Since first questioned by ABC News 4, DHEC says it has begun digitizing reports for residential care facilities so they can be made available online.
Meanwhile, Wright says she's now her brother's temporary guardian, and that his bruises have healed but he still has health problems. Wright says she's looking for a new care facility to place him in. She has advice for others looking for the same.
"Go visit the place, talk to the people who live there talk to the people outside. Stay away from the owners, they are going to tell you what you want to hear, it's a business that is what it is," Wright says as advice for other families.