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Nursing Home Neglect Fine Given After Nurse Refuses to Perform Procedure

Our Chicago nursing home abuse lawyers were discouraged to read a story in last week’s The Daily Enterprise regarding a fine imposed on a nursing home after one of its employees was charged with intentional nursing home abuse. The fine was issued last summer by the federal body which pays for most nursing home care-the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). In total, the negligent facility was fined $20,000 for failing to protect the resident and failing to investigate the accusations of abuse in a timely fashion.

The nursing home mistreatment was first uncovered during a survey inspection of the facility by federal investigators. At least two specific instances of egregious abuse and neglect were uncovered. In one case, a licensed practical nurse who worked at the facility refused to administer necessary tracheostomy care on several different occasions on a resident who needed it performed. The suction procedure is crucial in allowing certain residents with various ailments the ability to breathe easily and properly. Failure to perform the procedure put the resident in severe discomfort and can have serious long-term consequences. Upon the nurse’s blatant refusal to perform the procedure, the resident asked to call his mother; however the nurse refused that request. Eventually, the resident was forced to send out a plea for help on Facebook, asking a friend to contact his mother.

When the mother arrived she warned the nursing supervisor of the egregious nursing home abuse. The supervisor was forced to administer the tracheostomy herself. However, even after all of that, the supervisor did not remove the nurse from duty. The supervisor explains that she was worried that the facility would be short staffed if the nurse was relieved at that time. Of course, our Illinois nursing home lawyers have often explained how short staffing is at the root of many instances of mistreatment at these long-term care facilities. So many potential problems can arise when there are not enough properly trained staff members around. The same facility was also cited for failing to properly investigate complaints from the very same resident that his Passy-Muir valve-a device used to help him speak-was removed. As a result, he could not talk to those around him.

The nursing home in question claims that it took reasonable steps after the incidents to improve care. For example, the nurse that refused to perform the tracheostomy was apparently fired when sufficient evidence of potential abuse was uncovered. In addition, the nurse supervisor was re-educated on her responsibilities when it comes to dealing with potential instances of abuse. However, it is one thing to claim that negligent staff members were “re-trained” it is another to ensure that similar instances of neglect and failure to supervise never actually occur again.

It is encouraging that at least some steps were claimed to have been taken in response to this abuse and neglect. Clearly those steps would not have been taken had the facility not be forced to be held accountable. In far too many situations that accountability remains absent. Federal inspectors are able to reach only a small fraction of nursing homes, and even when inspectors do arrive they are sometimes unable to learn about a wide range of problems at the homes. That is why residents and their families are able to demand accountability on their own via use of the civil justice system.

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