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Trinko v. Executive Office of Health and Human Services

Superior Court of Rhode Island

April 20, 2016

ANN MARIE TRINKO
v.
EXECUTIVE OFFICE OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, and WOONSOCKET HEALTH & REHABILITATION CENTRE a/k/a WOONSOCKET NURSING CENTRE, LLC

Providence County Superior Court

For Plaintiff: Casey J. Lee, Esq.

For Defendant: Gail A. Theriault, Esq. Sheri L. Pizzi, Esq.

DECISION

VAN COUYGHEN, J.

Ann Marie Trinko (Ms. Trinko or Appellant) brings this appeal from a decision of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) upholding her discharge from Woonsocket Health & Rehabilitation Centre (Woonsocket Health). Jurisdiction is pursuant to G.L. 1956 § 42-35-15. For the reasons set forth herein, this Court affirms the decision of the EOHHS.

I Facts and Travel

The underlying dispute stems from Woonsocket Health's decision to discharge Ms. Trinko from its nursing home facility after her alleged repeated behavioral violations. Ms. Trinko had resided at Woonsocket Health since approximately November 19, 2009.[1](Compl. ¶ 4). On or about March 9, 2015, Woonsocket Health issued Ms. Trinko a Notice of Discharge, which stated that she was being discharged because she was "an endangerment to the health and safety" of other residents and employees based on her repeated violations of Woonsocket Health's smoking policy. Id. at ¶¶ 6-7; see also Notice of Discharge, Appellant's Ex. C. Ms. Trinko appealed the Notice of Discharge to the EOHHS, and an Administrative Hearing was held on May 26, 2015. (Compl. ¶¶ 8-10).

At the Administrative Hearing, the EOHHS considered issues relating to whether Woonsocket Health's discharge of Ms. Trinko was proper and in accordance with the Medicaid Code of Administrative Rules (Medicaid Code), sections 0376.40.10-NF Patient Appeal Rights[2] and 0376.40.10.15-Pre-Transfer/Discharge Notice.[3] Representatives from Woonsocket Health argued that Ms. Trinko had been discharged for violating the facility's smoking policy, which constituted a danger to the other residents and staff at the facility. (Compl.¶ 11). Conversely, Ms. Trinko argued, inter alia, that her discharge was improper because the allegation that she was an endangerment to the health and safety of other residents was not sufficiently documented in her clinical record because it was devoid of a notation from her primary physician, which she argued was required by the Medicaid Code. Additionally, Ms. Trinko asserted that Woonsocket Health was actually attempting to discharge her for improperly reporting certain thefts that had occurred at the facility, as well as for other behavioral issues unrelated to smoking. Id. at ¶¶ 12-13.

On June 3, 2015, the EOHHS issued its decision (the Decision) against Ms. Trinko, concluding that she ". . . was issued a proper pre-transfer/discharge notice and has been in violation of the smoking regulations on numerous documented occasions. . . " See Decision at 6. In reaching its conclusion, the EOHHS made the following six findings of fact:

"1. The appellant was sent a letter dated March 9, 2015 informing her that in 30 days, she was to be discharged for endangerment to the health and safety of residents and employees because of continual violations of smoking policy.
"2. The appellant filed a request for hearing received by the Agency on March 11, 2015.
"3. The appellant still resides at the facility that issued the discharge notice.
"4. A hearing was scheduled for February 24, 2015 and was rescheduled per the appellant's request.
"5. A hearing was scheduled for April 14, 2015 and was rescheduled as requested by ...

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