COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- A license revoked, a pattern of poor care, and the unexpected death of a resident found dead on a bench outside after a night of freezing temperatures -- now, Union Printers Home in Colorado Springs is shut down amid a state investigation.
But as our team found out, this facility should have been flagged months ago. It's a part of a bigger oversight problem Colorado faces and it goes beyond Union Printers Home.
Residents filed 43 complaints against Union Printers in 2019. Complaints allege everything from neglect to emotional abuse and stolen property. But it took the state more than six months after these complaints were filed to take any action on this facility.
How many other facilities across the state may also be dipping under the radar? A previous KRDO investigation into Aspen Living Center uncovered a pattern that raises that question.
Mike Murphy lost his wife of 17 years, Judy, after she died suddenly of pneumonia while being cared for at Aspen Living Center.
"She was not being taken care of like she should have been taken care of," said Murphy, who filed numerous complaints against the facility alleging neglect to the Colorado Dept. of Health and Environment.
Murphy said no action was taken to address his late wife's death or the health safety of Aspen Living Center's facility.
Data compiled by Medicare backs up his concerns.
To put it in perspective, the average number of health citations filed in nursing care facilities in Colorado is seven. But in 2019, Aspen was cited double that amount with 14. Union Printers Home had 29 citations that year.
These facilities, both rated "much below average" by Medicare, are just two out of the 23 nursing homes in Colorado labeled with serious deficiencies. Most of the problematic facilities are still open, despite a questionable citation record.
Loved ones like Murphy question if the state's oversight process is good enough. Peter Myers with the Colorado Dept. of Health and Environment assures it is.
"We do surprise inspections," said Myers. "Plus not every complaint is substantiated."
Myers explained every facility may be handled differently. But most often a deficiency list is created, requiring the facility to come up with a plan. That plan may require regular check-ins to verify changes were made. Subsequently, follow-up inspections will come after that may be off or onsite.
Both Aspen Living Center and Union Printers home were flagged with a combined total of 50 citations in the past three years.
Yet Aspen Living Center is still operating. And Union Printers faced 31 citations over a six-month period of time before any state action was taken.
Colorado is part of the research in an ongoing Congressional probe into nursing home oversight. In 2019, four nursing homes were on the list of 400 others nationwide cited for poor care.