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Pontiac Nursing Home Death Highlights Elder Abuse Crisis

elderly handsWhen you place your elderly relative in a nursing home, you expect them to be safe and well taken care of. Unfortunately, that was not the case for William T. Faust, who died December 23 after staff at the 80-bed Pontiac Nursing Home (also known as the Pontiac Care and Rehabilitation Center) in Oswego, NY waited 11 hours before taking him to the emergency room. Considering that 21.8% of short-term residents end up needing to go to the emergency room, this alleged negligence is disturbing. According to data provided by the New York State Department of Health, even though 73.8% of short-term residents made improvements in function at Pontiac, the facility received 82 citations from May 1, 2015 to April 30, 2019—nearly triple the statewide average of 32.

Not only did Pontiac allegedly delay sending Mr. Faust to the emergency room, but they also allegedly failed to notify Mr. Faust’s ex-wife, who was taking care of him, when he was finally transported to Oswego Hospital on December 16 and treated for pneumonia, a leg infection, and a urinary tract infection. He later died of sepsis.

A 35-page report dated April 19, 2019 and issued by the Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services alleges many deficiencies. The report raises particular concerns about LPN [Licensed Practical Nurse] #4’s treatment of Mr. Faust (referred to as Resident # 402) at Pontiac Nursing Home. It states:

“During an interview with RN #3 on 2/14/19 at 8:20 AM she stated on 12/15/18 when she arrived for the night shift around 11:00 PM she was immediately notified by CNA #8 that Resident # 402 was sick. She went into the resident’s room around 11:30 PM and he was unresponsive. She tried to wake him, performed a sternal rub and there was no response. RN #3 stated his oxygen saturation was low, she applied oxygen and called 911. She had advised CNA #8 to call the ambulance herself next time as there were two nurses that worked that evening and they had not addressed the resident’s condition. RN #3 stated this was an ongoing issue when LPN #4 was the supervisor as LPN #4 did not do anything when residents got sick.”

The report goes on to state:

“During the interview with RN #7 (Director of Nursing, DON at the time of the incident) on 1/30/2019 at 2:00 PM she stated RN #3 had raised some concerns regarding LPN #4 and her care of the residents. LPN #4 had been working at the facility for years, did a lot and really was the ‘top dog.’ LPN #4 was the wound nurse, the infection control nurse, the unit manager of one of the units and frequently worked as the nursing supervisor.”

When office politics get in the way of providing care to nursing home residents, there is great potential for resident neglect and abuse. Because she was considered to be a model employee by many in the facility, LPN #4 was not terminated until March 27, when Pontiac Nursing Home was found to put residents in Immediate Jeopardy—the most serious citation a nursing facility can receive.

According to a research brief issued by the National Center on Elder Abuse in collaboration with the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, “over 50% of nursing home staff admitted to mistreating (e.g. physical violence, mental abuse, neglect) older patients within the prior year in one study.” (After culling data from 9 different studies across 6 countries, the World Health Organization estimates that rate to be even higher, with “2 in 3 staff reporting that they have committed abuse in the past year.”)

As we have seen in the case of the Pontiac Nursing Home, a substandard level of care in a nursing facility can lead to elder abuse and neglect. According to WHO “[w]ithin institutions, abuse is more likely to occur where:

  • standards for health care, welfare services, and care facilities for elder persons are low;
  • staff are poorly trained, remunerated, and overworked;
  • the physical environment is deficient; and
  • policies operate in the interests of the institution rather than the residents.”

Only 1 in 24 cases of elder abuse are reported “because older people are often afraid to report cases of abuse to family, friends, or to the authorities” according to WHO. Thus, it is estimated that rates of elder abuse are much higher than are being reported.

If you have a loved one at Pontiac Nursing Home and believe they are being neglected, don’t let your loved one suffer in silence. If you suspect your elderly loved one was abused or neglected at a nursing home, contact the attorneys of Fitapelli Kurta at (877) 238-4175 or info@fkesq.com.