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Delayed Medical Attention To Blame For Death Of Nursing Home Patient

At some nursing homes, there seems to be a noticeable delay in providing outside care— from a specialist or hospital when a patient becomes injured or sick.  Some of these delays may no doubt be attributed to the fact that the staff is optimistic that the patient’s condition may improve, making such treatment unnecessary.

Death Due to Delayed Medical AttentionYet, in other circumstances that I encounter, a delay in seeking medical care for a patient is completely unjustified— an in some cases downright cruel.  I mean if a patient complains of pain in his or her back following a fall, how long is it necessary to wait before requesting an x-ray service or taking the patient to a hospital?

Due to that fact that some skilled nursing facilities are notorious for poorly recording information in patients’ charts, I imagine that many cases involving delayed medical care get rapidly brushed aside as the onset of the condition may be difficult to render from the patient’s records.

Thankfully, some cases involving delayed medical care do get investigated.  Just recently, the Minnesota Department of Health investigated the care provided to an ill patient at Sunwood Good Samaritan Society of Redwood Falls.  It turns out that the facilities delay in obtaining medical care for the patient is at least partially to blame for her death last November.

In this case, staff at the nursing home documented the woman’s strained breathing problems following supper, but used a fax machine to communicate the problem to the woman’s physician.  Even as the woman’s condition deteriorated to the point where her pulse became erratic and her fingers turned blue, the staff at the nursing home continued to continued to seek help from her doctor via the fax machine.

More than 24-hours after the woman’s physician was contacted, she died from cardio-respiratory failure in the presence of paramedics who were in the process of transporting her to the hospital.

The woman’s doctor was interviewed after the incident conceded that the facility should have sought medical attention for her quicker.

While I am uncertain if the staff involved in this incident were disciplined, these employees should take note that federal law requires nursing homes to notify patient’s physician when a patient becomes ill or their condition changes. Failing to do so doesn’t just jeopardize the patient’s well-being, but is against the law!

For more information on nursing homes in Minnesota look here.
Learn more about the laws applicable to Minnesota nursing homes here.
Click on the links for information on nursing homes in Minneapolis , Rochester and St. Paul


State: Nursing home slow to act before resident died from cardiac arrest, Startribune by Paul Walsh, April 14, 2011.

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