Henry Frazier was a patient at Pioneer Healthcare, a nursing home in Rocky Ford, Colorado. Frazier’s family first checked him into Pioneer in May 2009. Frazier was suffering from his longtime Parkinson’s disease when he was admitted.
Nutrition deficits and other challenges from Parkinson’s put Frazier at risk for bedsores and other nursing complications, and the nursing home was required by federal and Colorado law to have a care plan in place for Frazier. A nursing home aide mentioned to Frazier’s family in September of 2010 that he had developed a small sore, but that they were watching it. By late September, the aide told the family that the wound was getting bigger. The son finally saw the severity of the wound – a fist-sized necrotic abscess – and demanded that Frazier be sent to the hospital. Frazier nevertheless died on December 3, 2010.
Frazier’s family now asserts that the nurse’s negligence was the real cause of death. A medical malpractice expert found that Frazier had suffered 16 facility-acquired infections and 34 related injuries. Stage 4 bedsores, from which Frazier suffered, are considered to be “never events,” included with electrocuting a patient or amputating the wrong limbs in terms of negligence. The family asserts that they were never told how sick their father was, or how bad the bed sore was. When the family reported the wound to the police, state Adult Protective Services and state health department, however, no action was taken.
Though the family’s lawyer asserts that there is substantiated evidence that the facility failed to properly assess or treat the resident who was already at risk for pressure sores, the state nursing home investigators produced no citation and no penalty. The investigators concluded that there was not substantiated deficient practice. Patient advocates, however, believe that the state health departments go far too easy on corporate owners, even in the most egregious of cases. The nursing home defends its case by arguing that it was the Parkinson’s disease, and not the bedsores, that caused Frazier’s death. They assert that all care orders were followed.
The family’s lawyer, a nursing home expert, reviewed the evidence and believes that the care for Frazier was well below acceptable standards, and that the home used outdated wound treatments, failed to shift Frazier’s weight to avoid sores, failed to chart his care, and didn’t raise questions about the “appalling wound” until the son pressured them to do so. In January of 2011, the nursing home did get cited for 27 deficiencies in infection control, avoidance of patient hazards and incomplete care plans.
A wrongful death lawsuit was filed on Frazier’s behalf. The jury was much more sympathetic to Frazier’s case than the state, awarding a judgment of $3.2 million. However, the judgment is not guaranteed because Colorado state law caps damages for wrongful death cases at $300,000. However, the family attorney is fighting to raise that cap by arguing that this case went beyond negligence and was instead “recklessness.”
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