Facility is fined $7,000 in death

Woman, 92, strangled by wheelchair belt at Parkville nursing home

February 20, 2002|By Walter F. Roche Jr. | Walter F. Roche Jr.,SUN STAFF

A Parkville nursing home has been fined $7,000 and could face suspension from the state medical assistance program after the death of a 92-year-old patient who was strangled by a seat belt when she fell out of a wheelchair that lacked proper safety equipment.

State health officials imposed the fine late last week after an inspection last month of Oak Crest Village Care Center, a state-licensed facility at 8800 Walther Blvd. Operators of the nursing home were given 10 days to file a plan showing how they will correct several problems noted in the inspection.

If the home does not submit an acceptable corrective plan or fails to pass a subsequent inspection, the state will cut off funding for newly admitted patients covered by the state and federally funded medical assistance program after April 30, according to a letter from state health officials.

The inspection report said the female patient died Oct. 26 when she fell out of a wheelchair and was strangled by a seat belt attached to the chair. A review Jan. 15 of the state medical examiner's report showed the cause of death was asphyxia caused by the seat belt.

State inspectors said the woman had been placed in a wheelchair that she did not regularly use, and that lacked the safety equipment her doctor had ordered. They also noted that nursing home staffers claimed that the patient was never left unattended because of concern she would slip out of the chair.

The patient's doctor had never ordered the use of the belt in which she became ensnared, the inspectors wrote.

J.B. Hanson, a spokesman for the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said yesterday that officials of the nursing home reported the death and cooperated in the investigation. Previously, the nursing home had a "good record," he said.

Hanson said the fines were imposed under provisions of a two-year-old law designed to toughen the state's power to regulate nursing homes. Under the law, fines can be imposed immediately when inspectors find that violations of regulations caused "actual harm" to patients.

Mark McElwee, administrator of the home, issued a written statement expressing regret for "these unfortunate incidents." He said the staff took immediate action to correct the problems and ensure that "similar incidents will not occur in the future."

The 14-page inspection report says the strangulation victim was found at 8:30 a.m. in her room sitting on the floor in front of the wheelchair, with the seatbelt around her neck. Attempts to revive her were unsuccessful.

The report also notes two other cases in which patients at the nursing home were not given proper treatment. In one, a patient who was not supposed to be given solid food because of swallowing problems choked on solid food.

In the other case, staffers at the home failed to notify nurses and doctors of a change in blood test results for a patient being treated with a blood thinner.

"These are the only incidents of this magnitude that have occurred in Oak Crest Village's history," McElwee wrote.

Hanson said the nursing home, owned by Erickson Retirement Communities, had not submitted a corrective plan.

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