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Group-home owner fights to get back license

The owner of Willow Crest Manor, shut down by the state last week after two patients died because of possible medical errors, is fighting to get his license back.

Anand P. Mittal lost license 3 times before.
Anand P. Mittal lost license 3 times before.Read more

The owner of Willow Crest Manor, shut down by the state last week after two patients died because of possible medical errors, is fighting to get his license back.

Anand P. Mittal, 59, of Lower Gywnedd, appealed last week's closing of his Willow Grove personal-care home and is scheduled for a hearing in Commonwealth Court on Feb. 2, said Stacey Witalec, a spokeswoman for the Department of Public Welfare.

"Given the history of serious and life-threatening incidents this facility has had . . . it is our intention for them to remain closed," she said.

The DPW was trying to close the troubled home when the two patients died, one on Thanksgiving and the other about a week later. The state moved in Dec. 11 and relocated nearly 50 people to other facilities.

Many of the patients were elderly or suffered from mental illness.

In ordering the closing, DPW said Willow Crest failed to give one of the patients who died Medrol as prescribed by a doctor for bronchitis and asthma, and to elevate her legs, which were covered with open, bleeding ulcers, according to agency records.

The home also failed to get her emergency treatment and to report her death within 24 hours, as the law requires, the records said.

Willow Crest had been in trouble with the state for years for numerous health and safety violations, including understaffing and medication and record-keeping errors.

Reached at the home, Mittal, who uses the first name David and who owns three other personal-care homes in Bucks County and Philadelphia, said he did not have time to talk and hung up. On Wednesday, he waived arraignment on charges of simple assault, harassment and reckless endangerment for allegedly choking a 74-year-old patient suffering from Parkinson's disease in August.

Mittal's lawyer, Herman Weinrich, could not be reached for comment.

Three patients stayed at Willow Crest, including Anne Yankovich, 60, whose brother Eric said she had been traumatized by the upheaval. The patients are allowed to stay because with fewer than four people the home is not subject to DPW regulations.

Yankovich said that his sister was happy at Willow Crest and that he was satisfied with her care. He planned to testify on behalf of Mittal in his fight to win back his license, which the state has confiscated three other times since 2005.

Unlike at a nursing home, people in personal-care homes do not need 24-hour nursing assistance.

The deaths capped years of problems at Willow Crest, according to DPW records.

On Nov. 27, Upper Moreland police were called to the home and found 49-year-old Kimberly J. Curtain with sores on her legs and feet. Although an ambulance crew explained that she had a serious infection and needed medical treatment, Curtain refused to go with them, the police report states.

Police inquired about committing her to a psychiatric facility but were told she still could not be forced to get medical help. They advised the staff to keep an eye on her and call an ambulance if she became unresponsive, according to the police report.

The next day, police were called again. The nurse on duty said that she tried to give Curtain medication, but that the woman was too sick to take it. Curtain again said she didn't want to go to the hospital but the nurse called 911 anyway.

By the time the ambulance arrived, Curtain was unconscious and she died en route to Abington Hospital.

Police were called on Dec. 6 for Joseph Landes, 24, whom they found unconscious with his legs dangling over the side of his bed. The staff said he had been using his scooter a few hours earlier and hadn't complained of feeling sick, as he usually did when he wasn't well.

The report says that an employee had looked into his room about an hour before Landes died and that the patient was lying on his side in bed.

Landes suffered from a host of psychiatric illnesses and was taking eight medications, according to police.

Efforts to reach the families of both patients were unsuccessful.

Said Yankovich: "I've read the order [to close it down] and I don't view many of those things as violations. I've had experience in other group homes. No building is perfect. No staff is perfect. They're dealing with sick people."

His sister, whom he visits every day and brings home once or twice a week, has been depressed and incoherent since the closing, he said. He said he saw other residents crying and upset as they were being moved.

"This whole thing is despicable," Yankovich said. "It's genuinely sad, really awful. These are sick people and they can't fight for themselves.

Not everyone was as pleased with Willow Crest. According to DPW reports, a resident asked to be moved to another facility four times between February and December, and Willow Crest failed to help find a new home, as required by state code.