Investigation Initiated After Suspicious Nursing Home Death, Involving Patient Wandering and Drowning

Trempealeau County Health Care Center

Sometime during the night of November 3rd., 43-year-old Hong Lin wandered from the Trempealeau County Health Care Center in Whitehall, Wisconsin. Police spent the next three weeks combing the surrounding woods with K-9 units, trying to track Lin’s scent.

A hunter found Lin in the nearby Trempealeau River on Sunday, November 27. How or why Lin wandered from the home is still a mystery, according to an article in the Winona Daily News.

Set among rolling hills in picturesque Northwest Wisconsin, the Trempealeau County Health Care Center seems like the perfect place in which to receive care and rest. Its ratings on Medicaid’s national “Nursing Home Compare” Web site are unusually high, and it’s received few violations from the Wisconsin Health Department. The home’s been operational for more than 20 years.

So how could such an established care center – with only 34 beds – literally “lose” one of its patients?

I suspect it might have something to do with Wisconsin’s lax wandering laws. No laws dictate how often a patient at a center must be checked on. Nor do any laws establish when patients can leave a facility.

As a lawyer who’s worked on a number of wandering cases, I’d strongly suggest that families of relatives who’ve wandered contact the state Health Department as soon as a relative’s gone missing. Since nursing homes tend to have high staff turnover rates, the onus of finding out the truth often rests on families’ shoulders. I’ve found that early investigations tend to result in faster resolutions in court.

If you think you have grounds for a wandering lawsuit, I’d be honored to speak with you. All of our initial consultations are free and confidential.

Related Nursing Home Law Center LLC Blog Entries:

Wisconsin to Ease Nursing Home Penalties

State Fines Nursing Home Where Patient Drowns in Puddle in Front of Facility

Jonathan Rosenfeld Interviewed About Wandering


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