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Extendicare’s neglect and understaffing causes wrongful death

Published on September 1st, 2008

On Seattlepi.com there was an article about the tragic death of Lee Ann Steele caused by the understaffing and neglect of a for profit nursing home.

Lee Ann, who had suffered a stroke,  lived at Aldercrest Health & Rehabilitation Center.  She needed a tracheotomy. The Steele family had felt assured by the facility’s promises of skilled, high quality care, but less than 24 hours after their daughter was admitted, her tracheal tube clogged with mucous, causing oxygen loss and brain damage. Lee Ann Steele, once a vibrant church secretary who had volunteered at a food bank, died a few months later, in January 2007. She was 49.

The family wanted answers so they filed a lawsuit against Exyendicare Homes, Inc., the company that owns and manges the facility.   The complaint, filed in King County, accuses Milwaukee-based Extendicare of violating consumer-protection laws by advertising "quality standards above government regulations" and failing to deliver.

The lawsuit highlights problems regarding Extendicare, one of the largest nursing-home chains in America. The company runs 268 facilities for up to 30,000 residents.  In Washington, two of the company’s homes are on a federal list of troubled facilities that require extra inspections by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Four of its homes, including Aldercrest, have been barred in the past from accepting new residents. Five have been hit with fines totaling thousands of dollars.  Many complaints, including those alleging wrongful deaths, stemmed from neglect and poor treatment for such conditions as pressure sores and diabetes.

She said the company appeared to have a high turnover in management. She also said the homes routinely accepted more residents — and more acutely sick residents — than staff members could handle. 

On Oct. 5, 2006, the day Steele was admitted, her family found her lying on a sheetless rubber mattress and her tracheal-tube equipment on the floor, unhooked, with no one attending to her for several hours.  Steele  suffered respiratory distress and died soon after.

 

Joe Pioletti
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