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Nursing Home Death Prompts Investigation, Federal Fine

A nursing home in Massachusetts is facing thousands of dollars in federal fines after a state investigation revealed the facility employees violated state law in treating an 83-year-old woman who died after falling from a mechanical lift. 

Nursing home deaths resulting from falls are far too common. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report 1,800 older adults living in nursing homes die every year from fall-related injuries. Even those who live often sustain injuries that result in permanent disability and substantially reduced quality of life.

That’s why we must treat these matters with grave seriousness. Unfortunately, as one ProPublica investigation found there are often greatly disparate penalties for deadly mistakes at nursing homes.

One example was a nursing home resident in Texas who approached the nursing station gagging on a cookie. However, staff was not trained for emergencies and didn’t call 911. Meanwhile, an earlier case in South Carolina involved a resident who pulled out a breathing tube and died after the nursing home failed to take appropriate steps to stop her from harming herself, even though she had done this same thing repeatedly in the months before. Both homes were found by general inspectors to have put patients’ health and safety in “immediate jeopardy.”  But in the South Carolina case, officials were fined $305,000, while in the Texas case, officials were fined just $9,500.

In the most recent nursing home death case in Massachusetts, the patient fell from a mechanical lift while being moved on Christmas Day of last year. She died two days after that.

But the nursing home negligence apparently went beyond just the mistakes that led the woman to fall in the first place. A full 24 hours and three shifts of nurses passed before the elderly woman was told that her legs were broken and she was transported to the hospital. State investigators found there was an excruciatingly slow reaction time to the woman’s fractured legs.

The nurse who was on shift when it happened did order an X-ray. However, she failed to identify that there had been a broken bone. Then another nurse who came in on the following shift discovered the lower-leg fractures on the X-ray. However, she did nothing about this and instead, simply passed that information on to the nurse on the next shift. Even the third nurse did not inform the patient of the fractures. All of this, the state report concluded, comprised one of five violations noted.

The patient, who was on blood-thinning medicine. Records from the hospital showed she suffered from kidney failure as well as coagulopathy. That last condition is caused by excessive or prolonged bleeding – sometimes spontaneously, but usually after an injury.

Now, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will be responsible for doling out the fines, which could range anywhere form $250 to $3,000 each day. The facility has already submitted a plan of correction and it terminated five staffers.

The family, meanwhile, is weighing all legal options. An attorney representing patient’s survivors said it is waiting to hear back from the facility to determine whether it will extend a fair settlement agreement or whether the family will be forced to file a nursing home death lawsuit.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.

Additional Resources:

Following death, Wilmington nursing home faces federal fine, March 9, 2016, By Amelia Pak-Harvey, Lowell Sun

More Blog Entries:

Lawmakers: Stop Nursing Home Abuse on Social Media, March 25, 2016, Boca Raton Nursing Home Death Lawyer Blog

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