APRIL 18, 2005 VOLUME 12, NUMBER 42
Samuel Paschall apparently posed some risk to himself and to the other residents of The Washington Home in Washington, D.C. From the day of his first admission to the nursing facility he had been closely monitored because he was difficult to handle, and becoming more so as time went on. When he complained of abdominal pain and was admitted to Walter Reed Hospital, the nursing home saw its chance—it issued what it called an “Advance Notice of Discharge” informing Mr. Paschall (and his daughter, who was managing his affairs) that he could not return to The Washington Home.
There were at least two problems with the notice of discharge sent by the Home. First, federal law requires that such notices must usually be given at least thirty days in advance. Second, any discharge notice from a nursing facility must include a description of the location to which the patient will be discharged. The Home’s notice did not meet either of those requirements.
Mr. Paschall’s daughter hired an attorney and challenged the notice with the District of Columbia Department of Health. An Administrative Law Judge heard the case, and agreed that the notice was deficient—although he ruled that the Home could issue a new notice that could comply with the federal and local requirements.
Instead, the Home did what nursing homes around the country too often do—it told Mr. Paschall’s daughter that his bed had been taken by a new patient, and there were no more Medicaid beds available. Mr. Paschall’s attorney returned to the Department of Health and requested an order that he would be entitled to return to the Home as soon as a Medicaid bed opened up. Ruling that Walter Reed Hospital had become the de facto discharge plan for Mr. Paschall, the Administrative Law Judge decided that an order compelling his readmission to the Home could only be issued by the courts. Mr. Paschall was instead released to a nursing home in nearby Maryland.
The District of Columbia Court of Appeals (the District’s highest court) disagreed with the Administrative Law Judge. The appellate court ruled that the Administrative Law Judge could apply the remedy urged by Mr. Paschall, and order his readmission to the Home. Before doing so, however, he would need to schedule a hearing to determine whether Mr. Paschall still wanted to return to the Home, as well as whether he had given up the right to return (as alleged by the Department of Health) by failing to cooperate with efforts to secure him a place. Most importantly, ruled the court, Mr. Paschall would need to establish that his return to the Home could be accomplished without jeopardizing other residents or himself. Paschall v. DC Department of Health, April 7, 2005.