MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - An investigation by NBC Nightly News into horrific conditions at nursing homes across the country has ties to the Mid-South.
Skyline Healthcare and its owner -- Joseph Schwartz, who is at the center of the network’s investigation -- ran Ashton Place in Memphis. That’s where state inspectors found disturbing tales of neglect, including one case where maggots were discovered in a wound on a man who later died.
The Ashton Place nursing facility on Walnut Grove is closed now, but at least one Memphis attorney who has handled cases involving this nursing home says the facility was a house of horrors for years.
“Consistently bad care across the board,” said Parke Morris.
Morris has represented former patients of Ashton Place and their families. For him, it’s no surprise the facility is facing intense national scrutiny.
“That facility needed to be shut down, in my opinion, a long time ago,” said Morris.
Memphis police were called to an area hospital by a social worker in October 2017. That’s where they found a 63-year-old man with multiple open wounds. He was a resident at Ashton Place.
The police report says he was found by paramedics “in feces.” The patient was also septic. His condition deteriorated at the hospital and he died.
The medical examiner’s report notes he had “maggots on amputations of his right leg and left foot.”
A subsequent investigation by the state revealed other deficient and dangerous conditions inside the nursing home, including one case where a woman with ovarian cancer was found dead hours after “moaning," “grimacing” and being nauseated.
The state report says nursing staff never called a doctor and never notified the family of the woman’s worsening condition.
One man, Donny Coats, was a resident of one of Skyline’s facilities in Hazen, Arkansas. His sister says he bruised his face after falling off a commode and had to wait for help.
“He was there for 45 minutes before anybody came to check on him,” said Karen Coats.
The feds would later shut down Ashton Place and another Schwartz-owned home in Memphis in 2017.
The Skyline Healthcare chain collapsed amid allegations of Joseph Schwartz’s financial mismanagement.
Morris says he’s concerned by the negligent nature of some nursing home operators who use the facilities as their personal piggy banks at the expense of human life.
“Whenever the ownership decides to extract large payments for themselves as opposed to using it to pay staff a proper wage, and then you have under-staffing as a result or when you get substandard employees, that’s when the problems start to develop,” said Morris.
As for Ashton Place, neighbors on Walnut Grove Road wonder what’s next. The property is still being taken care of and the yard cut.
“The pest control shows up once in a while,” said Charles Bigger, a neighbor. “I’m thinking who called them. I’ve seen plumbing trucks out here so it’s being maintained. I just wonder what the future of it is.”
According to the Shelby County property assessor, Altitude Heath Services out of Evanston, Illinois now owns the property. We’ve reached out to the company to learn more about their plans but we have not heard back.
Skyline Healthcare never responded to NBC’s request for comment on their investigation, but last year a Schwartz spokesperson told reporters in South Dakota his company did not own the buildings but provided quality care by managing the properties.