Sunrise on the Circle closed by health department
PELL CITY – The owner of Sunrise on the Circle Inc. denies allegations that led to a temporary closure of the facility by the Alabama Department of Public Health.

“We deny all allegations of verbal and physical abuse in the report,” said Gayle Sexton, owner of the facility, which opened in 2010. The facility received notice of emergency closure Monday, and had until Wednesday to safely transfer residents to other facilities.

Sexton said Sunrise had a disgruntled family of a resident that was emergency discharged from the facility last year.

“We felt he was not appropriate for this assisted living facility because he tried to leave twice,” she said. “We received notice Monday that the family had filed a complaint with the Alabama Department of Public Health and notice that Sunrise was not in compliance with department regulations. We intend to vigorously challenge the allegations.”

According to the emergency order of license suspension issued by the ADPH, as of Feb. 7 there were 11 elderly, disabled adults residing at Sunrise on the Circle, which is licensed for 28 beds.

The order stated an ADPH nurse surveyor conducted an on-site visit, reviewed facility records, interviewed the facility owner, facility administrator, past and present employees, residents and family members of residents of the facility.

“The Department determined there were extensive and serious violations of the State Board of Health Rules for Assisted Living Facilities…and that Sunrise on the Circle engaged in conduct and practices detrimental to the health and safety of the residents,” the order stated.

According to the order, Sexton verbally and physically abused an elderly male resident, and verbally and mentally abused other residents by cursing and yelling at them.

“Interviews and review of records revealed that the facility failed to provide adequate care plans and needed interventions to address needs such as safety for cognitively impaired residents at risk of wandering from the facility, and protection and assistance for residents prone to fall injuries,” the order stated. “Multiple other violations of the rules were found and will be cited in a final written statement of deficiencies.”

State Health Officer Dr. Donald Williamson signed the order to suspend the license to operate effective March 18. Residents were discharged and transferred to other facilities.

A contested case hearing to determine whether to permanently revoke the license to operate is scheduled by the ADPH for April 29 at 10 a.m. at the St. Clair County Department of Public Health. The emergency suspension remains in effect for 90 days from the date of the order, or until a final administrative order has been entered in the license revocation proceeding, whichever date is later; however the emergency suspension will not continue beyond 120 days from the date of the order.

“I want to thank our residents and family members and friends for their outpouring of support,” Sexton said. “The residents have been placed in other facilities, but most of the family and residents objected because they wanted to stay at Sunrise at the Circle.”

Sexton said she must wait a month for the hearing.

“I’ll be there (at the hearing),” she said. “It’s common in this business that disgruntled families file these types of reports. I deny all the verbal and physical abuse allegations in the report and will vigorously challenge the report.”

Contact Elsie Hodnett at

© 2013