When Krysten Schmidt visited her grandmother at Premier Genesee Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation nursing home, an aide quietly pulled her aside to share there were maggots on her grandmother’s foot. Schmidt said that if it hadn’t been for the aide, she might never have known that maggots – fly larva that look like small worms – were infesting her grandmother’s leg wounds at Premier Genesee not only that day but also four days earlier.
Two nurses who responded to Schmidt’s demands for an explanation downplayed the maggots, the granddaughter said.
“My mother had just arrived for the visit and took off the shoe and sock and three or four maggots fell to the floor,” Schmidt said. “They proceeded to tell me the maggots were in her shoe and not her sock. I mean, does it really matter? Are maggots supposed to be anywhere? They were trying to downplay it.”
Later that same day, Schmidt said, she filed a complaint with the state Health Department, which initiated an investigation in early October. Staff at Premier described the Sept. 25 incident to a state Health Department investigator in graphic terms. On Mary Ellen Sharp’s left foot, there was “something wiggling between her toes,” a nurse’s aide told investigators. In the state investigation report, the director of nursing told an investigator that the licensed practical nurse who initially discovered the maggots has been banned from working at the facility “for lack of nursing supervision notification.” The licensed practical nurse, however, told the investigator she not only recorded the incident in Sharp’s file, but also informed a registered nurse and tried “many times” to alert the nursing supervisor by phone, pages and texts, but could not reach her. The state cited Premier Genesee for violations but incredibly did not fine the nursing home.
An inadequate pest control program to prevent flies from entering and spreading maggots at the 160-bed nursing home was cited by the Health Department as the culprit. A maggot infestation on a nursing home resident’s body is a very disturbing violation of minimum care standards. An adequate pest control program includes making sure screens remain properly fitted in windows and eliminating gaps in doors to block flies from entering, making sure bug light traps are plugged in and that monthly recommendations for repairs from a pest control company are promptly addressed. The best intervention would be to care for and treat the resident’s wounds every shift.
The state cited other problems:
• An unsanitary situation occurred when a wound doctor, after treating one of Sharp’s wounds, failed to place a dressing on it. For hours, the wound was openly exposed, making it a target for flies.
• Officials at the nursing home failed to comply with a federal regulation requiring they immediately notify a physician and relatives when there has been a change in a resident’s condition.
• Breakdowns in communication among employees, ranging from the nursing staff to maintenance workers.
“What happened is inexcusable and horrifying,” said Lindsay Heckler, supervising attorney at the Center for Elder Law and Justice in Buffalo. “Had staff followed basic standards of care and timely notified the physician, maggots would not have infested the resident’s leg for additional multiple days. Maggots should not have infested her leg on Sept. 21, and the resident should not have been left to suffer from further infestation.”
“You don’t really think it could be true or it could ever happen,” Schmidt said of the maggots. “How would anyone feel having that happen to a loved one?”