It’s a nightmare situation for any healthcare worker. Local authorities discovered a horror show at a Georgia nursing home after it came to light that nearly all the staff had quit last Monday. The police found seriously ill residents living in rooms with temperatures as high as 90 degrees F with just one overworked staffer to look after them. Now, the owner of the facility has been charged with cruelty.
A Gruesome Discovery
Dade County Sheriff Ray Cross was one of the first responders to arrive at Woodhaven Senior Living after a family member of one of the residents called the police and told them that their family member was being evicted from the facility.
“We were called initially because one of the family members got a call that all the residents were being evicted and they had an hour to get out,” said Detective Chad Payne.
Lois Sharp, whose father, Lee Watson, has Alzheimer’s disease, says she got a call from 55-year-old Kent Allen Womack, the owner of the facility, who said her father had to vacate the facility in 24 hours.
“And I’m thinking, okay, if you sold it, you had to know you were gonna sell it. So why didn’t you notify families ahead of time so they could have gone and checked all around and found some place to put them?” said Sharp.
Once they got inside, the authorities found most residents living in extreme temperatures. Without proper ventilation, some thermostats were maxed out at 100 degrees. There was only one staff member onsite at the time, not even a trained nurse, who had been asked to look after the residents for 32 hours straight. Authorities learned that nearly all of Woodhaven’s staff had quit last Monday, though the specific reasons why are currently unknown.
The police found Womack in the basement, which also had the building’s only working air conditioner. Sheriff Cross says they could smell alcohol on his breath when they entered the room. They charged him with cruelty to persons over the age of 65 and said more charges could be coming pending the investigation.
During a press conference on Tuesday, both Sheriff Cross and Detective Payne were in tears after speaking with residents.
“We had one elderly gentleman there that was vomiting, we assume because of the heat. It was just so miserable in there,” Sheriff Cross said. “This infuriates me. These are elderly people that can’t fend for themselves.”
In all, the authorities had nine residents removed from the building, and two were sent to a local hospital, where they are now doing okay. They added that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) is now investigating.
“Hurts My Heart”
Reporters were on hand to talk to some of the family members of the residents before and after the press conference.
“How could he do these old people like that?” asked Sharp, “My dad’s 83 years old. He doesn’t deserve this. And an Army veteran on top of it.”
“Daddy couldn’t tell me, ‘Lois something’s not right here,’ because of his mind,” she added. “To know my dad stayed here for three days in over 100-degree temperatures, it just breaks my heart.”
Amy Bowers, who used to work at Woodhaven Senior Living up until 2018, described owner Kent Womack as “money hungry, always out for himself, basically.” She added, “I feel so heartbroken for all those residents. I really do. It hurts my heart.”
Compliance records show the facility’s last inspection was in May of 2020 in response to a complaint, but no violations were issued.
However, a previous inspection in September of 2019 found that there was often just one staff member per shift to care for all 12 residents. The report said there was a strong smell of urine in the air and that some of the patients had bed sores and toenails so long they hurt.
During that inspection, regulators wrote: “Half of the residents were incontinent and needed to be changed or assisted with bathroom, many residents had dementia and did not remember to change their pads, they did not remember to come to meals, trash cans got filled quickly, bed sheets got soaked several times a day, and one staff was not enough to change sheets, bathe, groom, pass medications, clean bathrooms, tidy up rooms, put the dishes away, supervise the residents, and also cook meals.”
Thankfully, most of the residents are out of the building. Womack remains in custody at the Dade County Jail.