Shuttered assisted living facility had ‘rare’ pattern of zero-star ratings

Updated: Feb. 28, 2020 at 5:02 PM EST
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SHALLOTTE, N.C. (WECT) - Stare records show Shallotte Assisted Living, which was forced to shut down Wednesday after the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services found ‘evidence of neglect’, had a pattern of zero-star ratings.

“All I do is represent people who are hurt or killed in nursing homes. So the facilities I come into contact with generally are one- or two-star facilities. Getting a repeated zero-star out of the four-star rating system, that is also quite rare and that maybe should have raised some alarms at the state level as to what was going on in that facility,” said Elizabeth Todd, an attorney at the law offices of James Scott Farrin.

Todd has practiced law and handled cases involving nursing homes and assisted living facilities for the past 20 years.

According to the NC Division of Health Service Regulation Adult Care Licensure Section, the Shallotte Assisted Living Facility received seven zero-star ratings.

The facility is owned by Johnson Adult Care LLC., according to state records, and the owners of that company, Georgette and Tony Jonhson, also own more than a dozen other businesses registered to the same two addresses in Shelby, N.C.

Of those businesses, at least six others are adult care facilities. At least four have been dissolved.

Todd said it is not unusual for a corporate company to own various adult care facilities in a state or region.

WECT reached Georgette Johnson by phone Friday.

When asked how Tammie Bullard was hired as the director, Johnson promptly hung up.

Bullard, a convicted felon, is facing felony drug and weapons charges in this case and faced similar charges in a 2017 incident in Laurinburg, S.C., where she was the director of Willow Place Assisted Living and Memory Care.

“I cannot believe this person was empowered to run an assisted living facility. With a criminal record like that and a record of drug possession and drug charges,” Todd said. “I don’t know how that person gets a job running an assisted living facility but the thing that we need to remember is that every dose of pain medication that was stolen was not given to somebody who needed pain medication. So it’s not a victimless crime. Somebody didn’t get their pain meds who needed it.”

Todd said ultimately, all hiring decisions come down to the corporate owners, who in this case would be Georgette and Tony Johnson.

“It really is incumbent at the end of the day on the owners of the facilities to run background checks. A simple background check would have revealed everything about this woman,” Todd said.

Additionally, Todd noted the severity of this case implicated by the actions DHHS took.

“Closing the facility down, that is rare. That is obviously the worst that they can do is close their doors. So the state took that extremely seriously and closing their doors is the highest penalty that they can offer,” she said.

WECT has reached out to the Department of Health and Human Services with several questions, including how often facilities are shut down, but have yet to hear back.

Todd suggests reaching out to a lawyer if family members or caregivers believe a loved one was hurt or killed at an adult care facility as a result of negligence.

She also recommends reaching out to the North Carolina Division of Health Service Regulation and the Department of Social Services.

Todd said complaints to those agencies typically lead to an investigative visit to a facility.

She said an initial complaint filed against Shallotte Assisted Living got investigators into the building and ultimately had it shut down, which is an example of the system working correctly.

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