Shocking Complaint Against Nursing Home

     SACRAMENTO (CN) – After giving a dialysis patient a lethal dose of morphine, the nation’s largest nursing home chain refused to let an ambulance take the catatonic man to a hospital, his daughters claim in court.
     While recovering from a stroke at American River Center in Sacramento, Jonathan Bell was mistakenly given morphine by his nurse and died the next day, his three daughters and granddaughter claim in Superior Court.
     Bell’s attorneys say the nursing home feared sanctions for giving him the wrong treatment and tired to cover up its mistake by letting Bell remain in a catatonic state for more than 24 hours without medical attention.
     “They tried to bury their mistake and buried his life,” said Rob Cartwright, the Bells’ lead attorney.
     After taking the narcotic at 9 a.m., Bell quickly realized the mistake and alerted the nursing staff. He became nonresponsive and “catatonic” and was left to sleep off the morphine while his roommate watched in horror as Bell’s condition deteriorated for 22 hours, according to the June 4 complaint.
     Jonathan Webb, Bell’s roommate, pleaded with nurses to help Bell and eventually called an ambulance on his own after being ignored by staff, the complaint states. Then, though Bell had been unresponsive and asleep for more than 20 hours, American River Center staff turned away the ambulance tried to have Webb removed from the room, according to the lawsuit.
     “Webb experienced his own hell and torture,” Cartwright said.
     Webb, who remains a patient at the 99-bed nursing home in Sacramento County, could not be reached for comment.
     Two hours after turning away the first ambulance and 24 hours after the lethal dose, the nursing home decided Bell needed emergency attention and called its own ambulance, but Bell quickly died in the hospital, the complaint states.
     “They brushed him aside, didn’t think [the morphine] created an emergency situation,” said Brian Lance, another attorney for the Bells. “They didn’t want to deal with a citation for the medication error.”
     Bell, 49, was admitted to the nursing home owned by Genesis HealthCare after suffering a stroke and lived there for 21 months. His daughters say he lost 30 pounds and fell nine times while under the supervision of American River Center’s staff.
     Bell’s attorneys said the nursing home was understaffed and the nurse assigned to him was working a double shift and ignored him altogether. Three staff members were needed to remove Bell from his wheelchair and place him in his bed.
     “Mr. Bell was nonresponsive and had been in this catatonic state for over nine hours,” the complaint states. “Mr. Bell’s diaper had not been checked for this entire time, and he was sitting in his own excrement.”
     Rather than provide emergency treatment, Bell’s attorneys say, the nursing home downplayed the lethal mistake and hoped Bell would make it to his dialysis treatment scheduled for the next afternoon.
     Genesis, based in Pennsylvania, is the largest nursing home company in the country, with 44,805 beds in 380 outlets and $4.8 billion in operating revenue, according to Providermagazine.com.
     Genesis operates another facility in Sacramento that is one of six nursing facilities in California listed on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ list of centers with serious quality issues.
     Bell’s attorneys say the facility has a record of “substantiated complaints” against it.
     Genesis HealthCare did not return requests for comment.
     Bell’s heirs sued the nursing home’s owners, including Brittany Healthcare Center and Sunbridge Brittany Rehabilitation Center, seeking punitive damages for elder abuse, wrongful death and willful misconduct.

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