Family members who learn that a loved one has been abused or died due to nursing home neglect or negligence often want to hold the nursing home accountable. Justice for nursing home deaths may come through a personal injury or wrongful death suit against the negligent party. In addition, families may also hope that the government will step in with steep fines and sanctions.
Unfortunately, a new report by the news organization ProPublica shows that the federal government's oversight of nursing homes is inconsistent, as the story of what happened after residents died in two different states shows.
In Texas earlier this year, a nursing home resident went to the nurses' station. He was gagging on a cookie, and care providers attempted to clear his airway. They failed, and he died. Federal inspectors found that nursing home staff were not trained for emergencies. They did not call 911 immediately.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) imposed the state-recommended fine against the facility. It was $9,500.
In an earlier case, a resident of a North Carolina resident had pulled out her breathing tube and died. During the two months before the resident died, she had pulled out her breathing tube multiple times. Inspectors said the nursing home had not taken proper measures to prevent the resident from harming herself. In this case, state officials recommended and CMS imposed a fine of $305,370.
In both cases, inspectors had said the nursing homes posed an "immediate jeopardy to residents' health and safety. The disparity in fines, however, is not unusual. ProPublica's report notes that while nursing homes in some states are punished with stiff fines for misconduct, nursing homes in neighboring states may not.
Government penalties levied against nursing homes for nursing home deaths are a different matter than individual lawsuits. If your loved one has been seriously injured or killed by nursing home negligence or abuse, an experienced Phoenix personal injury attorney can explain your rights and options.
Source: ProPublica, "Two Deaths, Wildly Different Penalties: The Big Disparities in Nursing Home Oversight," Charles Ornstein and Lena Groeger, Dec. 17, 2012