Since new ownership swept in almost a year ago, state regulators have heard few complaints from patients and their families regarding an embattled nursing facility on Roosevelt Road. David Berkowitz, the top administrator for Berkshire Nursing and Rehab, insists there have been dramatic improvements made to the former Forest Park Pavillion and was surprised to learn last week that he’s being sued by a former patient.
“I’m not aware of any lawsuit,” Berkowitz said just days after a May 19 claim was filed in Cook County Circuit Court. “This is news to me. I know absolutely nothing about it.”
According to the suit, an 82-year-old man says he was struck in the eye by a nursing assistant on Dec. 10 with such force that the blow detached his retina and required surgery. Herbert Wik, the plaintiff, is suing Berkshire for no less than $50,000 and blames the nursing facility’s inadequate training and supervision of the employee, according to court records.
Berkshire has yet to file an official response with the court and, according to Berkowitz, was unaware that such a claim had been filed.
Berkshire nursing operates a 232-bed facility at 8200 Roosevelt Road in Forest Park. Berkowitz is part of an ownership and management group that stepped in last July after the facility went on the market. For years, the former owners struggled to meet state guidelines for patient care and often faced fines imposed by the Illinois Department of Public Health or were in court battling various claims filed by patients and their families. For services rendered under the Pavillion name, the facility was named in 2007 as one of the worst 120 nursing homes in the country by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
A spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Public Health said the office would not comment on the level of service that has been provided at the facility by Berkshire, but pointed to an online listing of surveys and inspections. That listing shows a decidedly shrunken number of complaints compared to previous years under the former owners, and many of the allegations were not sustained by onsite investigations.
Absent from that list, however, is a complaint stemming from the December assault Wik is alleging in court. Melaney Arnold, the IDPH spokesperson, confirmed her office received notice of the incident on the same date that Wik filed suit. An investigation will be conducted, she said.
Though Berkowitz said he was not familiar with the details of the lawsuit, he denied the claims made by Wik and described the former patient as “combative.” His staff addressed the incident appropriately, said Berkowitz, and is not at fault for Wik’s “self inflicted” injury.
“He was a very combative resident and refused care,” Berkowitz said. “He poked his own eye; it has nothing to do with my employees.”
According to Berkowitz, a nursing supervisor was also in the room at the time of the alleged assault and both staff members reported that Wik was swinging his arms at them. Staff members are instructed not to restrain patients so there’s no possibility that in an attempt to bring Wik under control he was injured, even inadvertently, by a Berkshire employee, said Berkowitz.
An attorney handling Wik’s claim said his client has since been removed from the Forest Park facility to another home in Oak Park. Attorney Elliot Zinger said his client insists the blow to his right eye was delivered intentionally and maliciously.
The lawsuit represents the first such claim filed against Berkshire’s staff.