In a report coming out of Naples, Florida, the government fined a nursing home $15,000 after one of its residents became severely dehydrated, suffered a heart attack, and died last August. The cardiac event and death of the resident occurred two weeks after the 90 year old was left outside under the hot Florida sun for close to three hours. Three nursing home employees were fired after this occurred, and the state Agency for Healthcare Administration investigated and released a report on the nursing home detailing concerns that residents could suffer physical injury, illness, and even death as a result of abuse or negligence at the home. One particular area of concern included the facility’s failure to properly supervise and observe residents when they were outside in the facility’s courtyard.
While accounts seemed to indicate the resident wheeled himself into the sun after he was brought outside, nevertheless staff allegedly failed to ensure he was not in the sun for too long and that he would be moved into the shade or back inside. The resident’s temperature reportedly hit an astounding 107 degrees after that, he suffered burns from the sun, and he was very dehydrated. Nearly ten days later, he had the heart attack and was dead. Any person needs to be kept out of the sun for too long, especially a 90 year old, and this victim in particular already suffered from atrial fibrillation, coronary disease, and high blood pressure, indicating he had preexisting heart problems that made close monitoring even more vital.
Problems for the Facility
The facility initially faced more state licensing reviews. The federal government fined the home $85,000 about three days after the victim passed away. A federal investigation in early 2015 revealed further problems at the nursing home, such as a patient being badly infected from a catheter. Then came the most recent $15,000 fine. While states primarily regulate nursing homes and thus have investigative authority and the authority to impose fines, cut off funding, and impose sanctions such as more frequent surveys or even license suspension or revocation, the federal government also has a similar role. This is because when nursing homes agree to accept federal taxpayer dollars through insurance programs like Medicare and Medicaid, which many nursing home residents rely on, they must agree to be subject to federal regulations, inspections and sanctions as well. Often federal and state authorities will work together to ensure compliance and hand down discipline when necessary.
In response to the fines handed down, the widow of the victim from the August incident who died a week and a half after being left in the sun for too long, has stated that the fines totaling $100,000 was basically a slap on the wrist and far from sufficient to hold the nursing home accountable.
Given the tremendous profits that nursing homes generally reap, it would not be farfetched to assume that coughing up $100,000 would not be a very big deal for the owner. The facility was reportedly subject to more frequent surveys, but ultimately did not face additional sanctions. While the employee firings were a good first step, this case shows how important it is for nursing homes themselves to be held accountable with discipline that has teeth. It also underscores the importance for prospective residents and their families to do proper due diligence and know a facility’s history and any dangers residents may face.
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