A year after inspectors found evidence of patient neglect, including medication errors and calls for help being routinely ignored, a Williamstown nursing home continues to provide "much below average" care rated in the bottom 1 percent of facilities across the state.

According to Berkshire Eagle reporter Haven Orecchio-Egresitz, in the past year and a half, Sweet Brook Nursing and Rehabilitation Center racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines, some of which remains unpaid.

Inspections of Sweet Brook have found dozens of instances in which patients were mistreated, abused or neglected by staff from summer 2017 to as recently as March, according to federal Department of Health and Human Services inspection reports obtained by The Eagle through public records requests.

The violations noted, among other things: the resuscitation of a patient without consent, leaving residents in soiled diapers and unsanitary restraints for extended periods, and verbal and financial abuse of residents wishing to leave the facility.

The high-level employee linked to that abuse, as well as several staff members who were found not to be properly licensed, were terminated after the September 2017 survey.

The violations, documented in hundreds of pages of reports, prompted the federal office that oversees Medicare and Medicaid to temporarily freeze Sweet Brook's ability to admit new patients.

That freeze was lifted in November 2017, after the facility corrected initial deficiencies and came back into compliance with federal regulations. But inspectors discovered additional violations when they returned in March.

It is unclear what efforts have been made to address issues at the facility. Multiple messages left for those in leadership at Sweet Brook over several weeks, in person and by phone, have not been returned.

Based on surveys and findings from the past three years, the state has scored Sweet Brook 89 out of a possible 132. Only 1 percent of the 399 licensed nursing homes in Massachusetts have a score of 89 or lower, according to the state Department of Public Health.

On the federal level, the facility continues to be rated by Medicare as "much below average," with 1 out of 5 stars, using a system that incorporates self-reported facility staffing data and survey and complaint findings in its scoring.


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