Local group accuses nursing center of neglecting and abusing patients in Newport News

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - A local group is accusing Bon Secours St. Francis Nursing Center of abusing and neglecting patients.

Members of Dignity For the Aged held signs outside of the facility to raise awareness to the issue Friday afternoon. This is the group's third demonstration.

Founder Sam Kukich tells News 3 her mother-in-law was treated poorly and lost 65 pounds while a patient at St. Francis for a year and a half.

Kukich's mother-in-law checked out of the facility last month.

"Many times they left her unchanged until 3 o'clock in the afternoon. Sometimes she had no clothes on at all; that's just totally unacceptable," said Kukich.

Dignity For the Aged consists of former patients, people who have loved ones experiencing lack of care in a nursing center, or just those who feel strongly about the issue.

"We think there should be some awareness to bringing some dignity for the aged that they just don't sit here without a voice and die alone. We need to up our game in caring for them," said Kukich.

Bon Secours St. Francis responded to the allegations with a statement below:

As a Catholic health care ministry, one of Bon Secours' core values is human dignity. Our mission is united around the commitment to uphold the sacredness of life and being respectful and inclusive of everyone, particularly of every person in our care at every stage of life and in every condition.

As an organization devoted to healing in all of its forms, Bon Secours supports and respects Dignity for the Aged's right to peacefully demonstrate about an important issue, which is quality care for our aging population. We positive, respectful social discourse as a means to a more humane world.

Bon Secours has worked privately with the resident's family on this matter, and consistent with our adherence to all HIPAA and privacy regulations, we are not able to discuss specific questions. We can note that questions raised by this family after leaving our care were reviewed by an independent ombudsman and were found to be without merit.

Bon Secours' award winning facilities that serve the Newport News area include Bon Secours Mary Immaculate Hospital, a U.S. News & World Report top four hospitals in the Virginia Beach metro area and Bon Secours St. Francis Nursing Center which recently received a national certificate of achievement in recognition of their Quality Initiative Program and for their commitment to improving the lives of the individuals they serve, from the American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living.

Bob Kukich said it was his mother who was a patient at the facility and claims their statement is not true.

"I talked to the ombudsman, Carol Taylor, less than seven days ago and once again [she] told me that she felt those issues that had been brought up were valid and they hadn't really done anything to correct them," Mr. Kukich mentioned. "I think it's a good PR statement though," added Mrs. Kukich.

Dignity For the Aged said they have reached out to Congressman Scott Taylor's office in efforts to put a stop to Bon Secours St. Francis Nursing Center's alleged negligence.

"You stand out here with these signs and we get people who stop and park their cars and come over and say, 'We have the same problem with this facility or another facility' and, 'How can we help?' They hold up signs and do what they can," Bob Kukich said. "It's not just the two of us; it's everybody in this community, and we're all going to get there one of these days."