Family hires attorney in Forest Hill fiasco, people treated like “cattle”

Another family is coming forward and has hired an attorney in the case of the abrupt closing of Forest Hill Nursing Home in East Moline.

“They packed our stuff, threw us in a van and said, ‘You’re going,'” said Kathy Koehn, a Bettendorf woman and former resident of Forest Hill.

“Originally they told us we were going to be moved to another wing while they renovated.  Last Monday, they called a special meeting and told us we had to be out by Friday.  And the next day, which was Tuesday, they packed me up and moved me and I didn’t know where I was going.  I didn’t know where my stuff was.  We were given virtually no notice and our families were given no notice,” Koehn said in an interview at her attorney’s office in Rock Island.

The Illinois Department of Public Health is investigating how Forest Hill basically emptied the nursing home of nearly 70 sick and elderly patients to two nursing homes in East Moline and Galesburg.

“It’s deplorable, you’re made to feel like you are cattle that they herd from one place to another,” Koehn said.

Koehn, who is being helped by hospice, says it was a nightmare during her transfer to another home in East Moline.

“I take morphine every four hours and, when they moved me, it was almost three days before I received any pain medication.  So I was up for three days and nights in pain, because I wasn’t getting anything,” she said.

Her daughter Amy says she, too, learned about the mass transfer the day before her mother was moved.

“I feel, not only was my mom put in a bad place, but all the residents there.  And a lot of residents who can’t stand up for themselves.  I think it was really rotten how this went down,” Amy said. “My mom didn’t even have her medical chart follow her, so she was without her medicine for two, three days.”

The Koehns have hired Rock Island attorney Howard Zimmerle and plan to file lawsuit against Forest Hill owner Michael Lerner and his company, GEM Health.

“They violated a lot of these rules,” said Zimmerle, referring to the Nursing Home Care Act that requires 90-day shutdown notice for residents to find alternative care.

“The biggest mission is to hold this guy accountable for what he did to all these people,” Zimmerle said.

The Koehn’s say its not just about them.

“We’re all going to get old. We’re all going to get a disability some day and people shouldn’t be treated like that,” said Amy Koehn. “Luckily I have hospice there for me and mom because I probably still wouldn’t have her stuff, her medicine.”

“She was just put in a van without notice.  I don’t think they should do that to people.  I want him to be held accountable and if he has other homes out there, they should be investigated,” Amy said.

Koehn said she is worried about her fellow residents after the move.

“A lot of the older people don’t have family, like I do, to stand by them and help them and be an advocate. I feel really bad for those people,” Koehn said.

For more of our coverage of this story, click here.

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