Mom lauds Tinton Falls for addressing issues at rehabilitation facility

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A mother in Tinton Falls is applauding the actions of municipal employees who she said took immediate action to help address what she termed “deplorable” conditions at a rehabilitation facility in the municipality.

Dorothy Dittmer, 73, said her daughter, Kristin, 43, was admitted to the Wardell Gardens Rehabilitation Center, Wardell Road, in September following a hospital stay during which she was treated for a staph infection.

Dittmer said her daughter had to go to a rehabilitation facility to live for more than four weeks because she required a registered nurse to routinely administer antibiotics intravenously.

Dittmer said Wardell Gardens accepts their insurance and is near her home.

Upon visiting her daughter, Dittmer said she was concerned by what she said was a “deplorable” institution with sanitation concerns, the visible presence of what she believed was black mold, rust, dirt, subpar communal bathrooms and what she perceived as an absence of security.

“My daughter who should have been in a highly sanitary condition was subjected to this horrible place.”

Dittmer initially sought assistance from state and Monmouth County officials. She explained that she had hoped to bring attention to the conditions at the facility where her daughter was expected to spend four weeks.

She said the assistance she sought was not only for her daughter, but for other patients at the rehabilitation facility who may not have had anyone speaking on their behalf. Dittmer said she wanted to improve the quality of life for all of the patients in the facility.

Her request for action by state and county officials was left up in the air, Dittmer said. She then called on her local Tinton Falls officials for help.

Speaking during a Borough Council meeting on Oct. 1, Dittmer said, “I have deep gratitude for the office of the mayor. My daughter got very ill and needed a facility after being in the hospital with an IV for an infection … We had to use Wardell Gardens … The place is deplorable. … The conditions of cleanliness are deplorable.

“… As a citizen and a taxpayer, I went to look for help. I went to the state first. I gave my description and heard nothing. I got a lovely note from (Gov. Murphy’s office) which said he would get back to me and never did. Then I went to (a) senator … I didn’t get any reply.

“Desperately, I came (to local officials). Victoria Harris was my first encounter in the mayor’s office. She was compassionate … and brought me to (John Mack, the borough’s emergency management coordinator). They made a difference in my life and in my daughter’s life. They went (to Wardell Gardens) and started getting this place (in shape).

“… The patients (in Wardell Gardens) have absolutely no one to speak up for them. The rooms reek. … One side of the building is condemned. … It was only (after) I brought this to the attention of the mayor’s office that they cleaned away a horrific amount of black mold my daughter was breathing in,” Dittmer said.

Council President Gary Baldwin thanked Dittmer for her comments and said, “Our guys are on it.”

Business Administrator Mike Skudera said his executive assistant, Harris, and Mack were “quick to work on this (issue).”

“Between your comments and (municipal employees) meeting with the (Wardell Gardens) administrator, (the facility) seems to be doing more than usual,” Skudera told Dittmer.

Harris, Mack and Skudera immediately visited Wardell Gardens on Sept. 11 after Dittmer brought the matter to their attention. A wall that was covered in black mold was removed after it was discovered by the Tinton Falls employees, Skudera said.

Dittmer said she visited her daughter at Wardell Gardens every day, cleaned her daughter’s living space, brought her meals and looked for air bubbles in her daughter’s IV line.

Dittmer said she does not want to see the facility close, but wants to see the conditions improve for the patients.

Skudera, who said the rehabilitation facility is under the state’s jurisdiction, said an inspector from The Monmouth County Regional Health Commission is only responsible for inspecting the kitchen on an annual basis.

According to a Nursing Home Inspect on ProPublica, the facility has been issued $19,000 in fines and numerous deficiencies have been cited since 2016.

In May 2017, the facility was issued a $13,505 fine and a “J” rating, which is defined as immediate jeopardy to resident health or safety. According to a report that outlines the matter, “the facility failed to provide sufficient supervision and ensure the safety of (select) residents.”

The next month, 14 deficiencies were reported which resulted in $5,525 worth of fines.

According to that report, the deficiencies reported were a failure to provide justification for the continued use of a limb restraint and a failure to evaluate for the least restrictive device; the facility failed to conduct background checks on new employees; the facility failed to maintain the environment in good repair; the facility failed to transcribe a physician’s order accurately on the Medication Administration Record (MAR) and failed to follow physicians’ orders for medications.

Also, the facility failed to keep confidential documents in a secured area; the facility failed to address a resident’s pain management regimen; failure to give select residents proper treatment to prevent new bed (pressure) sores or heal existing bed sores; the facility failed to provide consistent supervision to prevent resident-to-resident altercations, falls and failed to communicate and in-service staff regarding additional measures to secure the environment to prevent elopement.

Also, the facility failed to ensure that each resident’s drug regimen is free from unnecessary drugs; the facility failed to store and maintain the Food Service Department in a sanitary manner to prevent food borne illness and provide a system to ensure that a compartment sink had an effective chemical sanitizer agent; the facility failed to properly label, store and dispose of medication; failure to maintain drug records and properly label drugs.

And, the facility failed to perform infection control procedures for sanitizing equipment, perform effective hand washing procedures and ensure that oxygen tubing was stored in a manner to prevent cross contamination; and the facility failed to maintain the kitchen in a sanitary manner.

Moshe Singer, who was the administrator at Wardell Gardens, left his position early this month.

On Oct. 10, a representative from Wardell Gardens said they were not permitted to disclose the reason why Singer left his position. A new administrator has since been hired, according to Wardell Gardens. But the new administrator did not respond to several requests for comment.

That day, Monmouth County Health Officer David Henry said Dittmer, who he identified as the complainant, informed him about the condition at Wardell Gardens. He said the matter “is out of the (county’s) jurisdiction” and said he told Dittmer she should call upon the state to explore the matter.

Also on Oct. 10, Janelle Fleming, of the Office of Communications at the New Jersey Department of Health, confirmed Wardell Gardens is a licensed facility. She said the last annual inspection took place on Aug. 21, but did not comment on details of that report.

According to the federal government website medicare.gov, Wardell Gardens Rehabilitation Center in Tinton Falls was granted a one-star rating.

Kristin, who was the patient whose mother brought the conditions to light, said residents at the facility deserve a better quality of life. She applauded the staff for “being very caring and doing the best they could with the (medical) equipment they had.”

Kristin said she observed mold on the ventilation system in the gym. After Tinton Falls employees were notified of the conditions and after Skudera and Mack visited, the vents were wiped clean, she said.

“If I had not my mother, I would not have made it through there,” Kristin said.