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California Skilled Nursing Facility Fined in Death of Resident

Elderly Man with WalkerWe trust nursing homes to take good care of our aging relatives. Unfortunately, medical errors are increasingly common at skilled nursing facilities. Last month, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) fined Kindred Transitional Care & Rehabilitation – Walnut Creek, a skilled nursing facility in Contra Costa County, in connection with the death of a patient.

Medical Errors in Nursing Homes

A 2014 study by the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) found that medical errors occur more frequently in skilled nursing facilities than in hospitals. In fact, an alarming 22,000 patients were injured and more than 1,500 died in a single month due to nursing home negligence.

Overall, the HHS study revealed that 1 in 3 patients in skilled nursing facilities suffered a medication error, delay in treatment, misdiagnosis, or some other type of harm. It further found that 22% of patients suffered adverse events that caused lasting harm, and another 11% were temporarily harmed. In 1.5% of cases, the patient died due to substandard care. Equally alarming, a staggering 59% of the incidents were preventable.

California Nursing Home Fined $100K for Fatal Medical Error

The Contra Costa facility received a Class “AA” citation, the most severe penalty under state law. It was also fined $100,000 for “deficiencies that were determined to have been a direct proximate cause of death of a patient or resident.”

According to the investigation by the CDPH, the Kindred Transitional Care and Rehabilitation-Walnut Creek failed to provide proper treatment for tracheostomy care. The facility staff specifically failed to hyperextend the resident’s neck prior to changing a tracheostomy tube, as required by the facility’s policies and procedures. The staff also failed to use an oral bag mask when the resident experienced respiratory difficulty after the new tube was inserted.

The facility did not have any emergency protocols for such an event. Although the staff ultimately called 9-1-1, the patient died. An autopsy confirmed that the improper placement of the tracheostomy tube perforated the trachea and esophagus, resulting in acute respiratory failure.

If you or someone you love has fallen victim to nursing home negligence, contact a San Diego personal injury attorney at the Law Offices of Robert Vaage for a free consultation. We’re here to help.