Articles Posted in Wrongful Death

Two registered nurses and one certified nurse aid were convicted in a Nassau County courtroom for willful violation of health laws in a tragic case that led to the death of an 81-year-old nursing home resident at A. Holly Patterson Extended Care Facility in Unionville, NY, according to LongIsland.com. According to prosecutors, the elderly resident – both ventilator-dependent and in a wheelchair – somehow became disconnected from his ventilator, rending him unable to breathe.

In situations of life-and-death, the nursing home utilizes distinct auditory and visual alarms that sound throughout the unit. Despite the sounding of the alarm and its ubiquity across the entire nursing home, the two nurses, Sijimole Reji and Annieamma Augustine, along with the certified nurse aid, Martine Morland, did not respond for a full nine minutes. By the time the ventilator was reconnected, the elderly woman was unconscious and passed away the next day.

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In response to the increase in for-profit nursing homes and recent data on nursing staff levels across the state, New York lawmakers plan to introduce a bill establishing minimum levels of nursing staff at long-term care facilities across the state. According to state legislators, under-staffing remains a serious problem at New York nursing homes and directly contributes to a lower quality of care for their elderly residents. Originally drafted two years ago, Republicans in the state legislature blocked the measure. However, with Democrats set to control all branches of government next year, the Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act will likely become law.

The proposed legislation will establish a minimum ratio of nursing staff to patients, which will vary by the level of care required for the patient. For patients undergoing active rehabilitation at a nursing home, there cannot be less than one nurse or nursing assistant for each patient. Further, the bill would require a nurse to spend an average of 291 minutes with each patient every day. According to The Buffalo News, this would be a significant change for most nursing homes. According to the newspaper’s analysis, only 8 percent of New York nursing homes currently satisfy these requirements.

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A jury in upstate New York awarded a victim of nursing home abuse $1.2 million for its wanton neglect of an elderly resident. The jury found that 72-year-old Shirley Burrows was horrifically neglected by Newfane Rehab & Health Care Center, a long-term care facility in Niagara County. According to The Buffalo News, Burrow’s damages include $775,000 for pain and suffering and $475,000 for violating state public health laws meant to protect nursing home residents. Lawyers for the profit-making nursing home said that insurance will fully cover the settlement.

The mistreatment of Burrows began in May 2015 when she was discharged from the hospital with several “superficial” bedsores. Bedsores, also called pressure injuries or pressure ulcers in the medical community, develop when a person is pressed against a surface for an extended period of time. Due to decreased mobility and a higher rate of hospitalizations, the elderly are highly susceptible to bedsores. When bedsores are minor, they can heal quickly. However, minor bedsores can quickly turn into deep and painful sores when left untreated. Bedsores, especially serious ones, are usually preventable.

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The reporting at one nursing home in New York is intensifying as more allegations of neglect and abuse continue to surface. A steady drumbeat of news reports has thrust Sodus Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in the Buffalo area and its mistreated residents into the spotlight over the last year. As the dangerous and unhygienic conditions have come to light, outrage in the community has grown and families of the residents say they are scared for their loved ones.

The nursing home, previously named Blossom View, first received attention from the local news last year when one man came to visit his father and found him dead. Admitted only two weeks earlier, the nursing home resident had fallen several times, suffered multiple bruises, head injuries, and even several broken bones during his short stay. The staff told the son they already knew and simply forgot to notify the family or remove the body.

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Sepsis, a deadly bloodstream infection, is a common and largely unreported consequence of pressure inuries/ulcers. According to a recent article by The Chicago Tribune, sepsis was the most common reason that elderly residents are transferred from their nursing home to hospitals. Despite the massive financial and human implications, the newspaper states the problem is largely unreported because lawsuits against nursing homes are frequently settled out-of-court and include confidentiality clauses.

While the number of pressure ulcers leading to sepsis infections is not measured by federal regulators, the number of patients sent from nursing homes to hospitals and then die of the infection is at least 25,000, according to The Chicago-Tribune. This preventable cause of death leads to thousands of lawsuits filed all over the country against nursing homes and hospitals that allow their loved ones to become infected. In addition to the massive human toll, sepsis infections are an expensive burden on the healthcare system. Medicare pays more than $2 billion annually for sepsis treatment.

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After a spate of negative press coverage last year, Medicare has only issued limited guidance for the upcoming natural disaster season. After widespread lack of preparation in the wake of Hurricane Irma in Florida and Hurricane Harvey in Texas harmed America’s nursing homes, many patient advocates are worried about the nation’s nursing home residents. According to these advocates, the same systems and policies that led to widespread power outages and death last year have not been fixed yet.

Last September when Hurricane Irma struck Florida, residents of Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills found themselves stuck at a nursing home without any air conditioning, power, or a backup generator – all violations of Medicare policies. Sadly, fourteen of the residents at this now-closed nursing home passed away during the 90-degree heat which overtook the nursing home for a week. In response to these flagrant violations, Medicare passed emergency planning regulations last November which required each facility to:

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Between 2014 and 2018 Beach Gardens Rehab and Nursing Center in Queens, New York received 92 complaints by its residents and 19 citations by the New York Department of Health. The Department of Health inspects all nursing homes throughout the state every 9 to 15 months to ensure their compliance with all laws regulating nursing homes and the treatment of their residents. These are several of the citations the Queens nursing home received over the last few years:

1. The nursing home failed to prevent pressure ulcers or bed sores.
Beach Gardens Rehab and Nursing Center received a citation in June 2017 for failing to prevent its residents from receiving pressure ulcers. Under Section 483.25(c) of the Federal Code, all nursing homes must “ensure that a resident who enters the facility without pressure sores does not develop pressure sores…” Further, if a resident does have pressure sores then the nursing home is obligated to provide “necessary treatment to promote healing, prevent infection and prevent new sores from developing.” In this instance, the New York Health inspector randomly sampled three residents at the facility that had not entered with pressure ulcers. According to the inspector, one of these residents later developed a pressure ulcer on their left heel after the nursing home failed to use preventative measures, despite documentation that the resident posed a moderate risk for pressure ulcers.

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A Pennsylvania judge allowed a lawsuit against a nursing home seeking punitive damages over a patient’s pressure ulcer to proceed to trial, according to Law360.com. The lawsuit, filed in 2016, alleges that a nursing home’s reckless behavior allowed for a resident to develop multiple pressure sores. Sadly, these pressure ulcers, now referred to as pressure injuries, caused the nursing home resident’s death only months afterward.

The nursing home resident, Mary Ann Miller, entered the nursing home in November 2015 after a broken hip. According to nursing home regulations, Miller’s broken hip and resulting immobility qualified her as “high-risk” for developing pressure ulcers, or bedsores. Unfortunately, the nursing home did not sufficiently monitor Miller, who was originally only intended for a short-term stay while her hip healed. Unable to move and not properly cared for by the retirement home, Miller developed multiple pressure ulcers on her back and heels. After causing the pressure ulcers through its negligence, the lawsuit further alleges the nursing home failed to adequately treat the bedsores.

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In October of 2017, two nursing home residents in Westchester County were diagnosed with Legionnaires disease. One of the residents passed away due to complications from the disease. Unfortunately for the Sky View Rehabilitation and Health Care in Croton-on-Hudson, this was not the first time that Legionnaires disease has been found at its facility.

woman-hospital-225x300Legionnaires disease is not typically fatal if it is treated promptly with antibiotics. The bacteria that causes the disease are not spread by human-to-human contact,.  It is usually found in soil or water.  The likelihood is that the disease at the nursing home spread through its air conditioning systems or showering facilities. While the New York State Department of Health said an investigation was ongoing at the time of the outbreak, no information has been released by the government agency accounting for the source of the bacteria as of January 2018. Continue reading

A recent federal and state report excoriated New York’s handling of complaints against nursing homes and nurses in the state.

An audit by the New York found that the state had failed to properly investigate complaints against nurses. For the cases that are deemed “priority 1” – the most serious which usually involve allegations of sexual misconduct or abuse – New York took an average of 228 days to investigate. State law re

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quires these investigations to conclude within 10 days of the complaint. In one horrific case, New York failed to sanction, or otherwise discipline a nurse in any way, after she administered an overdose of insulin that nearly killed a patient. In another case, it took New York almost a year-and-a-half to revoke the nursing license from a Bronx nurse who sexually assaulted a patient.

New York performs even worse when factoring in lower-priority complaints against medical care professionals. With over 8,000 complaints lodged between April 2014 and April 2017, more than 2,000 were not performed within the required 180-day time period.

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