SALEM, Ore. (KOIN) — After the owner of a Salem nursing home was accused of several violations, the state abruptly shut it down without warning Wednesday morning.
State enforcement workers arrived without warning to the Lighthouse Infinity Care Home and began moving the 5 Alzheimer’s and dementia patients out.
“I just came in like a normal day and they show up,” employee Briana Ramirez told KOIN 6 News. “They’re trying to rush everything. … It’s not good for (the residents) health.”
State officials said there’s been “progressive regulatory action that started more than an year ago” that resulted in one patient hurting another patient. Regulators wanted more oversight of patients by a registered nurse and accused the owner, Melissa Cuanas, of inadequate staffing.
“Whoever was able to make these decisions obviously was not able to look at the well-being of the residents and their actual safety and their health. And it’s mindblowing,” Cuanas told KOIN 6 News. “I have families in there that are crying.”
Cuanas said she’s a victim of bureaucracy and the way certain regulations are being subjectively interpreted. She felt it was important to go public with her case.
“I feel like the government and the state is such a beast. How can someone like me fight them? But I’m going to. I’m going to fight as hard as I can because each one of those residents depend on someone to be their advocate.”
She told KOIN 6 News she believes the legal process should be allowed to play out before the state took emergency action.
The Oregon Office of Aging and People with Disabilities said it has been working “closely with the residents and their families to identify alternative long-term care providers that best meet their needs.”
In a statement to KOIN 6 News, the Oregon Department of Human Services said:
Melissa Cuanas was removed from the long-term care registry for care providers as the Background Check Unit had received information about potentially disqualifying factors. Adult foster home owners must meet the requirements to be on the registry — or hire a resident manager or primary caregiver to oversee the direct care provided to residents. In addition to not having an approved background check, Ms. Cuanas did not employ a resident manager or primary caregiver who met these requirements in an effort to ensure the safety of residents. Several attempts were made to compel Ms. Cuanas to submit required paperwork to verify appropriate staffing of a qualified resident manager or primary caregiver yet she failed to provide this paperwork (or submitted incomplete applications).
It is highly unlikely that a new application by Ms. Cuanas’ would be approved given her involvement with a serious incident of abuse that was substantiated. And in fact, her background check has since been denied by the Background Check Unit which only strengthens the licensing unit’s resolve that the actions taken were in the best interest of the residents in her adult foster home.
The Office of Aging and People with Disabilities’ decision to move residents is a last resort. A lot of care and planning is involved in the process to ensure residents are relocated to a safe facility that meets their needs and that the process involves as little stress as possible to the resident and their families.