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DSHS finds violations at senior facility

Fri., March 6, 2009

State’s complaints focus on medicine distribution system

No new residents can move into the Cooper George, a retirement and assisted-living facility on Spokane’s South Hill, until the facility ensures that it has a safe medication distribution system and can better coordinate care of its most vulnerable residents.

Washington’s Department of Social and Health Services took the action Feb. 20, after it discovered “numerous violations that jeopardized the safety and well-being of residents,” according to a DSHS news release.

The Cooper George, 707 W. Fifth Ave., is owned by Ageia Health Services, based in Bend, Ore. The 13-story apartment complex opened to much fanfare in 1952, because of its modern design. It evolved into a premier apartment building for seniors, because of its proximity to downtown and South Hill hospitals and doctors’ offices. The facility has 150 units. Some seniors live there independently; others require help with daily living skills.

“We’ve put plans in place for the correction, and we are in the process of getting things in order,” executive director Robyn Huetter said. “We have a brand-new management team, and we want the public to know the Cooper George will be what the Cooper George used to be.”

The major complaint concerned the facility’s medication distribution system, according to the “statement of deficiencies” report by DSHS. When medications are given to residents, the facility’s approved health care staffers must initial the entries. DSHS found that on several occasions, an unknown individual signed off on the medication.

“The facility maintained a master signature list of all persons who gave medications … Per review of the records, there were no initials matching those of the unknown individual who signed medication documents.” The medications approved by the unknown person included narcotics, according to the documents.

The other complaint concerned a resident who returned to Cooper George after a stint in a rehabilitation facility following a stroke. The resident had memory problems and no family to help with decision-making, and English was not his first language. Yet he was sent unaccompanied to his doctor appointments, and “the facility failed to adequately coordinate care with his primary care provider,” according to DSHS documents.

Huetter said the facility has asked DSHS to return for a site visit to observe the corrections put in place.

“It could happen this week,” she said. “We have a list of people who want to move in.”

Reach Rebecca Nappi at or (509) 459-5496.

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