Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Nursing Home Fined $80,000 in Patient’s Death

Homewood Care Center in San Jose was fined $80,000 and given a “AA citation”, the most severe penalty under California law, after a state investigation determined that a nurse’s failure to administer the Heimlich maneuver on a choking patient resulted in the patient’s death. According to a report by the Department of Health and Human Services, the patient was admitted to the care facility with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing. The man was assessed as a high risk for aspiration (the entry of secretions into the trachea and lungs) due to difficulty of swallowing. The report also indicated that the man had a no-CPR order, meaning he did not want any cardiopulmonary resuscitation, however investigators concluded that a no-CPR order does not preclude abdominal thrusts, such as those performed during the Heimlich maneuver.

Patient Choked While Being Fed Dinner
On August 24, 2009, at 5:30 p.m., a certified nurse assistant was feeding the man a dinner of pureed food when he suddenly began coughing violently. Although staff members thought the man was choking on food, they did not attempt to perform abdominal thrusts to clear his airway. Investigators found the facility did not promptly call 911. Although staff members claimed they called 911 at 5:30 p.m., records indicated the call was placed at 5:49 p.m., a delay of 19 minutes. A police report indicated the man was dead when paramedics arrived.

Aftermath of this Tragedy
Following the death of the patient, a registered nurse who failed to implement emergency procedures was fired, and the director of nursing at the time of the incident was relieved of his duties.

When the state health department issues a citation or finds a deficiency, the care center must submit a plan of correction. After the plan is accepted and the health department completes a surprise inspection, the agency issues a fine or citation. Homewood submitted a plan of correction, which was accepted on March 11, 2010.

Nursing Home Owner’s Troubled History
Until January of this year, Homewood was owned by Jack Easterday, who is currently in prison for withholding $9.6 million in payroll taxes from employees’ checks and willfully failing to pay employment taxes. Easterday was the sole shareholder of Westline Medical Management, which owns Homewood and seven other nursing homes in California. Easterday resigned as a corporate officer of Westline in January and transferred his shares to an administrator. Easterday and Westline have a history of providing poor nursing home care. In 2007, two other facilities owned by Westline were each fined $100,000, the highest fine possible, for their role in the death of two patients.

If you or someone you know has been the victim of nursing home abuse or negligence, contact the Casiano Law Firm for a confidential consultation to discuss your case.