Health Care

Nurse’s photos show unsanitary supply room at one of KC’s lowest-rated nursing homes

Nurse’s photos show unsanitary supply room at one of KC’s lowest-rated nursing homes

Emily Brueggeman, a licensed practical nurse, says she was fired for reporting unsanitary conditions in what was supposed to be a sterile supply room at the Kansas City Center nursing home at 12942 Wornall Road.
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Emily Brueggeman, a licensed practical nurse, says she was fired for reporting unsanitary conditions in what was supposed to be a sterile supply room at the Kansas City Center nursing home at 12942 Wornall Road.

One of Kansas City’s lowest-rated nursing homes has cleanliness issues based on recent photos taken by a former employee and a September inspection report.

Emily Brueggeman, a licensed practical nurse from Lenexa, said she took photos last month of food waste, dirty towels and used gloves lying around a room where medical supplies and linens are stored at the Kansas City Center for Rehabilitation and Healthcare at 12942 Wornall Road.

Then she sent them to the corporate offices of Centers Health Care.

“After I reported my concerns and sent the photos, they terminated me,” Brueggeman said via email.

Photos provided by Brueggeman show bags of trash, used Quik Trip cups, a small container of shaving cream and a disposable razor and what appears to be a piece of chocolate cake in a Styrofoam bowl sitting on the floor and counters of the supply room.

Under Missouri regulations, nursing homes are to store linens and medical supplies “in a clean place and protected from contamination” and employees are to eat only in designated areas.

Jeffrey Jacomowitz, a spokesman for Centers Health Care, emailed a statement that did not address the sterility issues raised by Brueggeman, but denied that her firing had anything to do with her reporting them.

“It was in the best interest of the Kansas City Center and Centers Health Care to part ways with Ms. Brueggeman due to ongoing undisclosed issues,” the statement read.

Brueggeman said Wednesday she was “not allowed” to comment further on the issue.

Centers Health Care has a reputation on the East Coast as a company able to turn around struggling nursing homes. It made its first foray into the Midwest last year, when it acquired the Kansas City property, as well as one at 5211 W. 103rd St. in Overland Park and one in Butler, Mo.

So far the facilities have continued to struggle with poor ratings from the federal government’s Nursing Home Compare program. Inspections at the Overland Park facility have found unsanitary food storing and handling, failure to develop care plans and discuss them with residents and families, failure to prevent pressure sores and failure to properly inventory and track residents’ property.

The most recent published inspection at the Kansas City facility, conducted in September, also found a range of sanitation problems in residents’ bathrooms and showers. Inspectors documented “gloves and debris strewn on the floor,” “unknown stains and discoloration” in a sink, “dinner plate size, brown liquid substance on the floor beneath the sink,” and several empty toilet paper holders.

One resident who was interviewed reportedly told the inspectors “Have you looked at the shower houses yet? They are disgusting. I wouldn’t take a shower in there if you paid me. It looks like they have used the sink for hair color, and it has been like that for a week. It is sinful. We all have told them about the condition of these shower houses, and nobody cares. They just ignore it.”

There have also been maintenance issues of late.

A broken sprinkler head caused a portion of the ceiling to fall down at the Kansas City facility in January — the same month that the Overland Park facility lost hot water for more than a day.

Brueggeman, who has been a nurse since 2001, said that shortly before she was fired, a pipe leak flooded parts of the Kansas City facility, leaving oxygen equipment and other supplies “in a pool of water all over the basement” and soaking patient records.

The statement sent by Jacomowitz said residents’ oxygen supplies were not compromised.

“Furthermore, like most commercial buildings throughout the country, small leaks happen from time to time and these leaks are repaired,” the statement said. “The small leak at the Kansas City Center that occurred a few weeks ago was no different. It was discovered, controlled and repaired quickly without any damage whatsoever.”

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Kansas City Star health reporter Andy Marso was part of a Pulitzer Prize-finalist team at The Star and previously won state and regional awards at the Topeka Capital-Journal and Kansas Health Institute News Service. He has written two books, including one about his near-fatal bout with meningitis.

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