Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Nursing Facility Resident Dies of Fire-Related Injuries

A 74 year-old female resident of the Lemon Grove Care and Rehabilitation Center near San Diego, California caught fire while smoking at the facility’s patio on March 31, 2008. Less than two weeks later, the woman died of burn-related injuries she suffered to her face, head, chest, fingers, and arms.

The California Department of Public Health’s investigative report regarding the incident showed that the woman had been smoking in the patio-gazebo area, which had been designated for smoking. According to the report, no staff member was supervising her, even though a prior plan of care by the facility indicated that the woman was a potential risk for smoking-related injuries, and thus needed to be monitored to assess compliance with the facility’s smoking policy.

The woman had been sitting on her electric scooter and shielded herself from the wind by placing a jacket over her head, while trying to light her cigarette at the same time. However, her jacket caught on fire as she tried to light her cigarette. To see the Department’s investigative report, click on the following link:

Lemon Grove Care and Rehabilitation Center
Prior to this incident, Lemon Grove received three minor citations, one dating from 2005, and another two dating from 2008. Lemon Grove provides a full range of nursing services, ranging from physical, occupational, speech, and intravenous therapies, to assisting patients who are recovering from serious illnesses or injuries. Residents receive both long and short-term care from this facility.

Type of Care Nursing Residents Should Receive
The Department of Public Health cited the center with violating 42 CFR 483.25(h)(2) of the Federal Code. Title 42 CFR 483.25, subsection (h) states, “The facility must ensure that (1) the resident environment remains as free of accident hazards as is possible; and (2) each resident receives adequate supervision and assistance devices to prevent accidents.” To view the entire statute, click the following link:

Lemon Grove Received the Highest Penalty Under State Law
In this incident, Lemon Grove received an “AA” citation and was fined $80,000 by the Department of Public Health. “AA” citations are issued when a resident has died at a facility and the facility’s violation of the law was the proximate cause of the death. The “AA” citation is the most severe violation a nursing facility can receive under state law. Fines for “AA” citations range from $25,000 to $100,000. Moreover, if a facility receives two “AA” citations in less than two years, the process for revoking the facility’s license automatically starts.

Other less severe citations a nursing facility can receive are “A” citations and “B” citations. “A” citations are issued by the Department of Public Health when patients face imminent danger, or the probability of death or serious harm due to the facility’s violations. Such fines range from $2,000 to $20,000. “B” citations are issued for violations that concern health, safety, or security, but do not rise to the level of “A” or “AA” citations.

If you have a loved one who is not being properly cared for at a nursing center, it is important that you contact a San Diego elder abuse attorney to protect his or her rights. If you have a question or comment, please respond to this posting, but keep in mind that your responses will not be confidential. You can also call or e-mail us if you would like to discuss the matter in confidence. Thanks for reading our blog.