LAURINBURG — On Friday morning, the only evidence that Willow Place Assisted living had been a home to 35 residents was a few curtains hanging in empty windows and a pile of discarded furniture.
An official from The NC Department Health and Human Services Health Service Regulation confirmed Friday that it ordered the shut down of the beleaguered facility on Stonewall Road which had been cited for numerous infractions since last May.
“I feel like somebody finally listened and paid attention,” said Debra Dial whose mother Nellie was a resident at the home last year.
Dial was one of the original families to report the home for the haphazard care her mother received which resulted in the home being issued a provisional license.
“When they first took that license, we were so sure that they were going to change or do better for the ones that were left, but then they gave it [the license] back.”
Dial and others have said that Willow Place was not always so shoddily run, but things went downhill after Z&V Adult Care took over in the spring of 2017. The people who managed the home before Z&V were good people who cared about the residents and their families, according to Dial.
“At one time it was like one big family that looked out for one another,” she said. “Then these people came in – leeches really – and tore everything apart.”
DHHSR issued the order, delivered by certified mail, on Thursday demanding that the facility find other accommodations for its 35 residents before midnight.
The order is addressed to Georgette Johnson, owner Z&V Adult Care Licensee Willow Place Assisted Living and Memory Care, Shelby N.C.
DHHSR, “Summarily suspends your license to operate Willow Place Assisted Living and Memory Care by no later than midnight (12:00 AM) on April 12, 2018 or when the last resident has been place,” the letter states in bold print.
The document states that the directive is based on DHHSR’s conclusions that conditions at the home “present an imminent danger to the health, safety and welfare of the residents and that emergency action is required to protect the residents.”
The order was issued following a three day inspection last week where auditors found that the home violated state regulations regarding personal care supervision, health care, medication administration, healthcare personnel registry, residents’ rights and implementation.
The letter only applies to Willow Place, not any of the other homes Z&V operates across the state.
Jones can file for an appeal within 20 days of the closing.
For Dial the revocation of Z&V’s license is not enough. She believes that those running the facility and others should serve jail time for mistreating the elderly and infirm.
“I don’t understand how you can justify treating people like that. I don’t know how they can go to bed at night and sleep,” Dial said. “It’s a scam. They’re scamming the government and taxpayers of money. I would be satisfied if somebody got locked up. I won’t feel completely justified until somebody goes to jail.”
Throughout the day Thursday, volunteers and staff from seven different nursing homes in Scotland, Richmond, Robeson, Hoke and Moore counties worked to pack resident’s belongings and move them to new facilities.
Larry Graham whose wife, Rena, was a patient at Willow Care last year has been one of several families leading the fight to have the home’s license removed. Graham struggled with the desire to have his wife close to home or to find her proper care. In the end he maintains that conditions at the home got so bad for his wife that he had no choice but to move her to a facility in Pembroke.
Graham was with Rena when heard the news. He dropped everything and returned to Laurinburg to help pack up and move the patients whom he had come to regard as friends and family.
“I had it in my heart to do it. We’ve come this far there’s no point in walking away now. I knew these people needed help, and I was willing to help,” Graham said.
All but one of the 35 patients were placed in other facilities before midnight. The remaining patient had to be transported to a hospital for an aggravated condition.
Willow Place was cited for 16 infractions in May following inspections in April and May at which time the state issued a provisional license and suspended the homes ability to admit new patients. In August, the home received an additional 18 infractions following a second investigation and was given 90 days to correct the issues. The state returned Z&V’s license and ability to admit new patients in December because the 90 days had expired and the home had shown some improvement.
But state inspectors returned last week following complaints about continued safety issues, lack of adequate food, the home taking money from residents and improperly trained staff all issues for which the home had been cited in 2017.
The police department is currently investigating allegations of a rape at the home. The brother of a female resident contacted police on March 24 to say that his sister, a 52-year-old woman with mental deficiencies, had been raped by another resident.
In February a resident with an intellectual disorder walked away from the facility and later turned up in New Jersey.
There were also allegations that staff continued to be improperly trained, that residents were still being under fed and fed the wrong food for patients with certain medical issues.
The families who have led the fight expressed gratitude for each other, the outcome and for the support of the community.
“I’m glad we all worked together and kept it going. We got it done. We worked as a team,” Dial said.
“We all worked together to get this done,” Graham said. “I want to thank everybody in the community for their support through this.”
Reach Beth Lawrence 910-506-3169