An elderly Columbus, Indiana man and his wife have filed a “proposed complaint” with the Indiana Department of Insurance (IDOI) alleging nursing home neglect and medical negligence. The complaint was filed against the owners and operators of the Willow Crossing Health & Rehabilitation Center after the man developed a large, painful and infected “stage 4” pressure sore over his tailbone (coccyx) while he was under the care of the nursing home staff. The complaint also states that the man developed numerous urinary tract infections and contracted “MRSA,” a dangerous antibiotic-resistant bacterial infection, while he was a patient at Willow Crossing nursing home.
The nursing home facility, which is located at 3550 Central Avenue in Columbus, Indiana, is owned by Witham Memorial Hospital (located in Lebanon, Indiana) and is operated and managed by Magnolia Health Management XI, LLC according to the Medicare.gov Nursing Home Compare website.
Under Indiana’s medical malpractice laws, a “proposed complaint” must be filed with the Indiana Department of Insurance in certain cases before a civil suit can be filed in state court naming the defendant healthcare providers.
The elderly couple is represented by the Powless Law Firm, which is located in Indianapolis and represents victims of nursing home neglect and abuse. “We believe the care violations involved in this case are egregious and strongly indicative of serious systemic care failures within this nursing home facility, and we fully intend to hold those responsible for what happened accountable,” said Jeff Powless, an attorney for the elderly couple who filed the claim.
The complaint alleges that while the elderly man was a patient, the nursing home failed to maintain the staffing necessary to provide proper care to its patients. The complaint cites a January 13, 2015 Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) Statement of Deficiencies and Plan of Correction report which detailed evidence regarding understaffing. According to the complaint, the ISDH report revealed that:
- ● A female resident told the investigator she waited “a half hour…maybe longer” for staff to answer her call light, causing her to experience both urinary and bowel incontinence as a result of having to wait.
- ● Another female resident told the investigator that “You have to wait half an hour to an hour for them to answer your light. It just seems like they don’t have enough people to cover the care…I’ve had accidents [incontinence] …I recently had a bowel movement…it’s embarrassing. I don’t care how old you are.”
- ● A nurse aide told the investigator: “We can’t always get everyone toileted like we’d like [due to staffing/not having enough help]…Sometimes there are three [residents] at a time [who require/request toileting assistance…]”
- ● Several nurse aides told the investigator that facility management, LPNs and RNs…did not assist CNAs in answering call lights, toileting residents, or with dining room/meal times. Each of the nurse aides told the investigator that they have expressed concerns regarding staffing and nursing/management not assisting with resident care. Each nurse aide told the investigator that management was unresponsive to their concerns.
- ● A female resident told the investigator: “we don’t get enough ice water because there’s not enough staff. The other night I said, ‘Why am I not getting any ice water?’ and they said it was because they only had three people here and one of them was with [another resident].”
Pressure Sore Allegations
According to the complaint, the elderly man needed to be turned and repositioned in order to prevent pressure sores; however, the patient’s medical records confirmed that the facility staff was not utilizing a turning and repositioning program at that time. The complaint further alleges that after the recognition of the advanced coccyx pressure sore, the patient’s care plan was never modified to provide that he be positioned off of his known coccyx wound, as he should have. By January 23, 2015, the nursing home staff noted the wound to have increased in size to 5.6 cm x 7.1 cm x 1.2 cm with purulent drainage, according to the complaint.
Pain Control Allegations
The patient medical records confirmed that he suffered “frequent” pain that was “severe”, making it hard for him to sleep at night and which was limiting his day-to-day activities, according to the complaint. The complaint further states that the Indiana State Department of Health investigated the facility and cited the Willow Crossing for “fail[ing] to ensure the necessary treatment and services were provided related to pain assessment and pain control, resulting in [the elderly patient] yelling out in pain during treatment.”
Urinary Tract Infection Allegations
The complaint further alleges “systemic care failures related to catheter care,” citing an Indiana State Department of Health Statement of Deficiencies and Plan of Correction dated March 31, 2015, which described another patient being sent from the Willow Crossing by ambulance to the emergency room where it was discovered that “the catheter tubing was covered with a thick, yellow crusted substance and the catheter drainage bag contained dark yellow, cloudy urine.” The nursing home was cited by the ISDH for “failing to ensure the necessary treatment and services were provided to prevent a urinary tract infection leading to hospitalization,” according to the complaint. The Nursing Home promised to undertake various corrective actions to ensure the patients were receiving proper catheter; however, the complaint alleges the Willow Crossing failed to do so.
On April 19, 2015, the claimant’s medical records document that he in fact was “noted to have pus coming out from around catheter site…” and he was diagnosed with a urinary tract infection, according to the complaint. The complaint further states that the nursing home’s deficient nursing care practices were in fact observed first hand by an ISDH investigator, when on April 24, 2015, the investigator observed two nurse aides giving the patient a bed bath and failed to properly cleanse the patient’s body as required by the facility’s own policies. Willow Crossing was cited for failing to ensure the necessary treatment and services were provided to prevent a urinary tract infection, according to the complaint.
Infection Control / MRSA Allegations
The complaint goes on to reference a January 2015 ISDH citation of Willow Crossing for failing to establish and maintain an Infection Control Program designed to provide a safe, sanitary and comfortable environment and to help prevent the development and transmission of disease and infection. The ISDH investigator allegedly observed the Willow Crossing employees failing to properly wash their hands while providing activities of daily living/ toileting care, according to the complaint.
The complaint further states that the ISDH Statement of Deficiencies and Plan of Correction dated March 31, 2015 indicates Willow Crossing was also cited for “failing to ensure specialized services were provided to prevent infection leading to hospitalization” after a report that a patient’s central line was “contaminated with matted hair and showed symptoms of infection” and the ISDH investigator found a patient “lethargic and unable to speak” transported to the hospital. The Indiana State Department of Health investigator found that the Willow Crossing clinical records contained no documentation indicating that the central line assessments and care were being performed as ordered, according to the complaint.
The complaint further states that the Indiana State Department of Health Statement of Deficiencies and Plan of Correction dated March 31, 2015 indicates the nursing home was cited for “failing to ensure infection control practices and standards were maintained related to wound care and disinfecting of a work area after provision of care to prevent infection.” According to the complaint, the Indiana State Department of Health investigator repeatedly observed facility staff using unsterile techniques while applying treatment to patients, including a patient diagnosed with MRSA of wound and urine. The care failures included failing to clean or disinfect the patients’ bed tables, carrying the tube of medication into each patient’s room and sitting the tube directly on patients’ bed tables, reusing tongue depressors to apply wound medication, and using packs of gauze pads that were dropped on the floor prior to walking in the patient’s room to render wound treatments.
As a result of the April 2015 ISDH investigation, the Willow Crossing was also cited for deficient infection control practices, including the failure to properly dispose of needles, razors, and other sharp waste items; the failure to ensure the staff properly washed their hands; and the failure to utilize proper contact isolation precautions for a patient with MRSA in a thigh wound. According to the complaint, on July 1, 2015, the elderly patient was diagnosed with MRSA in his coccyx wound which likely resulted from contamination while at the nursing home.
The complaint alleges that to date, the Defendants have refused to accept any responsibility for the harm to the claimant.
The proposed complaint filed in this matter with the Indiana Department of Insurance is a public record.
Our investigation into this matter is still ongoing. As part of our investigation, we are seeking former employees of the Willow Crossing Health & Rehabilitation Center who may have knowledge concerning this facility’s staffing levels, training issues or any other factors that may have contributed to patients developing pressure sores and dangerous infections. If you are a former employee of the Willow Crossing Health & Rehabilitation Center with knowledge concerning any of these matters, please contact us confidentially by calling 877-769-5377.
The Powless Law Firm is an Indiana law firm that represents victims and families state-wide in serious cases involving nursing home neglect, medical negligence, personal injury and wrongful death. If you have concerns about nursing home neglect or abuse, please contact us at 877-769-5377. Together we can make a difference.