State investigators cited a Columbia Heights elder-care facility for neglect after its medical staff failed to respond while a resident wailed in pain from abdominal problems that ultimately led to his death.
Relatives finally called 911 after noting the man’s distress, the Health Department noted, but he died within hours of arriving at a hospital emergency room from Lighthouse of Columbia Heights.
“The facility failed to provide timely medical response” as the resident’s condition swiftly worsened in the incident last September, investigators concluded. The staff’s ignorance of proper emergency response represented “a system failure on the facility’s part,” investigators concluded.
The report, released Tuesday, marks at least the fifth time in four years that Lighthouse and its sister operations have been cited for neglect by the state Health Department. In November 2011, a resident suffered head injuries from a fall at the Columbia Heights facility and received no medical attention for days afterward, state investigators concluded.
In the most recent incident, symptoms came upon the man quickly, the investigation found. Along with vomiting and “explosive bowel movements,” the resident had a protrusion from his abdomen that made him appear “like a pregnant woman with twins,” according to the findings. The morning of his death, the man was screaming “Help me, help me” and pointing to his stomach, the report continued.
The resident died from a lack of blood flow caused by a herniated bowel, according to the death certificate. As is practice, the Health Department did not release the man’s identity or age.
An executive with Eden Prairie-based New Perspective Senior Living, which operates the Columbia Heights facility and others in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois, said the organization does not plan to appeal the finding.
Paul Nicholas said New Perspective “has already completed retraining of all team members [in Columbia Heights]. … When a resident demonstrates a change of condition, the team member observing the change will communicate the change to a licensed nurse for appropriate follow-up. This includes contacting 911, if necessary.”
According to the report:
The resident was “irritable” the night before, suffering stomach pain, and then vomited overnight. None of these symptoms were reported to a nurse. His condition deteriorated the next morning as the pain worsened and the abdominal swelling became pronounced. A nurse was briefed on these symptoms.
The registered nurse on duty that morning said she checked the resident’s lungs and found they were “not real bad that day.” She said she left examination of the abdominal difficulties to a licensed practical nurse, who noted the resident was “not showing any signs of distress at [the] time” and “denied any pain.”
A relative saw the man could not talk because of severe pain and that he had turned white. The relative called 911 about 1 p.m., but once at the hospital, the man went into shock and respiratory failure. Hospital staff determined it was too late for surgery; the patient was removed from a ventilator and died shortly after 9 p.m.
The man’s doctor said had the resident gotten to the hospital sooner, he “would have had a better outcome.”