State lifts suspension of operations at assisted living facility - WECT, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

State lifts suspension of operations at assisted living facility

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TABOR CITY, NC (WECT) –The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has lifted a summary suspension of services for Waterbrooke Assisted Living in Tabor City.

DHHS employees went to the facility last week in an attempt to remove patients.  Police Chief Donald Dowless went to the facility on Elizabeth Street in Tabor City last Thursday night to make sure things were under control. He was told no residents at the facility were moved at that time.

According to state employee Jim Jones, however, 15 residents were relocated that night, with an additional 15 residents moved Friday morning. Jones said the facility had 71 residents.

According to Reema Owens, the owner of Waterbrooke, state officials started trying to shut down the facility after they visited last Tuesday.

"They did tell our administrator there was some areas of concerns. They then left the facility. They returned about 7 p.m. Thursday with an order to remove residents and shut down the property. That's the extent of the information we were given," Reema Owens said at the time.

According to official documents, the assisted living facility's license to operate was ordered to suspended at 5 p.m. Saturday, September 22 or "when the last resident placement has been arranged."

The document said the suspension was based on findings from an investigation September 17-20. During this time, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services found "conditions at Waterbrooke Assisted Living present an imminent danger to the health, safety and welfare of the residents and that emergency action is required to protect the residents."

According to the NC Office of Administrative Hearing on Friday, Judge Beecher R. Gray granted a written temporary restraining order which stopped Waterbrooke's operating license from being suspended Saturday and prevents residents from having to be moved.

On Wednesday, the state lifted the summary suspension at Waterbrooke "based on observations of the conditions in your facility."  The suspension of further admissions to the facility will remain in effect until conditions approve.

"It seems a bit unfair, because we were not at an advantage to know what it is that was an imminent threat or potential imminent threat to residents. We weren't told that. We were just given a piece of paper stating the facility needed to be shut down," Owens said last week before the summary suspension was lifted. 

Algernon McKenzie, the Director of Social Services in Columbus County, said they are working closely with the state on the situation.

"It's not really a fight. It's just proving what we have done and what we have not done. That's the only opportunity we expect and need," Owens said. 

According to Kim Smith with the Columbus County Health Department, workers from the facility had recently called to question how to handle bed bugs. Smith said a few rooms at Waterbrooke had bedbugs and the staff was pro-active in fixing the problem.

Since the health department is not an expert in bed bugs, Smith said they reached out to the state for help. According to Smith, an inspector from her department went to the facility this week and social workers with the state were there as well.

Waterbrooke has seen its fair share of troubles. In May of last year, a nursing assistant at the facility was arrested for allegedly engaging in sexual activity with a patient. Also, the wife of a police captain who worked at the home was arrested, accused of stealing pills.

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