Nursing homes have a duty to protect their residents from harm inflicted by not just the staff and other residents at the facility–but also keeping residents from harming themselves. Rivera Healthcare Center, a California nursing home, failed to protect a resident from harming himself and consequently received a $100,000 fine– the highest fine permissible under California law.
The fine comes after a California Department of Health investigation related to the burn-related death of a 64-year-old resident. An investigation into the matter revealed that on December 23rd, a male resident left the facility in his wheelchair to smoke a cigarette. As he attempted to light the cigarette, the man ignited himself.
The man sustained third-degree burns to his legs, thighs, groin, buttocks and left hand. Despite, extensive medical care in a hospital burn unit, the nursing home resident died 18 days after the incident from organ failure and sepsis as a result of the extensive burns.
The report said the nursing home staff failed to monitor the mans whereabouts and failed to respond to the emergency situations. Apparently, upon seeing the man literally in flames, the staff panicked and failed to use a fire extinguisher and fire blanket just six feet away to douse the flames.
In addition to this fine and AA citation, Riviera Healthcare Center also had an administrative violation earlier this year in addition to the accident for which the Department issued a $20,000 fine. Health department records confirm 19 complaints have been filed against the facility since 2005.
Read more about this case involving smoking-related burns here.
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