WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (CBS 12) — CBS12 Investigates uncovered reports of true horror stories happening at nursing homes across the country that by law should have been reported to law enforcement.
These cases include life threatening falls, starvation, even sexual assaults that were not reported.
An early alert from the Office of Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services shows 1-in-4 abuse cases in nursing facilities across the nation and are going unreported.
The OIG called the procedures currently in place, “inadequate”.
Their review, which is still ongoing, found 134 cases of potential abuse at nursing homes that was not reported to police.
80 percent of those cases involved alleged or suspected rape or sexual abuse.
Six cases are now being investigated in Florida.
"We found that CMS, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services didn't have adequate controls in place to detect these potential instances of abuse or neglect," said Curtis Roy, Assistant Regional Inspector General for Audit Services, OIG.
Roy said the federal agency is required to identify cases of neglect - and they didn't.
"CMS acknowledged that that they are not doing the data match to identify cases of neglect,” added Roy. “They also acknowledged that they have not identified any instances of nursing home staff not reporting cases as required."
The audit found 38 cases that were so bad, by law the nursing homes were required to contact local law enforcement. But, they didn't do it.
"They need to have accountability, or they won't be responsible at all," said Roy.
Because of the results of this review, now the OIG is forcing their hand.
CMS must initiate protocols to adhere to a long-standing federal statute that requires nursing homes to report abuse cases to police and other state agencies immediately or risk fines of up to $300,000.
$1.77 MILLION LAWSUIT
"They don't care about those fines,” explained attorney Joe Landy. “It is business as usual. It is cheaper to pay those fines to keep these facilities understaffed with people that are not properly trained while they make record setting profits."
Landy represented Patricia Dahmer who lost her husband, George after his stay at nursing home.
"I cried every night that I walked out of that place," explained Dahmer.
"Within 60 days, he couldn't walk,” explained Dahmer. “He couldn't talk. He couldn't feed himself. In the matter of 60 days, he was lifeless."
Dahmer took him to the hospital, but said it was too late.
"They were going to put a feeding tube in so he could eat, and they undid his feet, and we found out he was stage 4 decubitus ulcers,” said Dahmer. “This was all uncalled for. They kept it all a secret."
In 2010, Dahmer won a $1.77 Million civil lawsuit against the nursing home.
Her attorney, Joe Landy said the facility valued making money over their patients’ care.
"It exposed what is a long-standing problem in Florida,” said Landy. “It exposed a nursing home that was making a huge amount of money with no accountability whatsoever."