In Southwest Illinois, at the Midwest Respiratory and Rehabilitation Center in Belleville, there was a horrific and tragic death of an 85-year old resident at the facility. According to local report, the victim “was found dead strapped to a wheelchair at the bottom of a flight of stairs.” The tragic death occurred in the early hours of March 12th. In addition to the possible negligence that led to this, the victim’s sisters reportedly noticed signs of abuse such as cuts, bruises, and stitched up areas on the victim’s body.
Authorities Notified First by the Funeral Home, Not the Nursing Home
Rather than the nursing home facility informing authorities of her awful death, it was a local funeral home, over an hour away, which had retrieved the body after the victim’s daughter made a call to the funeral home. The funeral home called the county medical examiner to clarify how the death certificate should be filled out because if there were an accident (as opposed to natural causes), this would require the medical examiner to establish a cause of death and sign off on the death certificate. The medical examiner subsequently went to pick up the victim’s body. Reportedly, the only call to authorities from the nursing home was for an ambulance.
Nursing Home Rated One Star
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services publishes the Nursing Home Compare website, which provides details on the performance of nursing homes across the country for consumers to research, and which was revamped in recent months to publish more accurate data. On its five-star scale, the Midwest facility has been rated only one star, and according to the local report had 36 deficiencies, which is nearly five times the state average. Even more disturbing, the owner of Midwest – Senior Healthcare Management of Skokie, Illinois – owns a dozen other facilities, nine of which have a one star rating like Midwest. One has two stars, while two other facilities both have four star ratings. Midwest has already been sued several times based on wrongful death claims in recent years, as has another facility under the same ownership. These suits were largely based in allegations of extreme negligence by facility staff that led to conditions like dehydration, malnutrition, episodes of the resident wandering away, and for some eventually death.
Investigation of the Fall at Midwest
The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) soon dispatched an investigator to inspect the nursing home and ensure safety of the other residents. The IDPH reportedly completed its investigation in recent days, but it will take a few weeks before findings and a final report are released. Authorities conducted a separate criminal investigation, and in recent days announced that there was “no evidence of criminal wrongdoing” as reported in the local news and announced by the medical examiner, who stated the victim’s “injuries were consistent with a fall.” The resident was reportedly picked up on surveillance video alone in the hallway prior to her fall down the stairs. The report further indicated that a nurse at the facility did not call the authorities because she feared being fired.
This case raises questions about possible negligence since the victim here wandered, fell down the stairs and died. It also is disturbing that staff may have failed to adequately notify the authorities of the fall. Nursing home consumers should be careful to research and understand a nursing home’s history of deficiencies and its ratings, using resources such as Nursing Home Compare online. And for those experiencing such events as the one at Midwest, victims or their families may have recourse through civil lawsuit, even if there is no finding of criminal liability.
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