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Fatal Heart Attack Caused By Failure to Act on Abnormal Test Results

     Olsman Mueller Wallace & MacKenzie recently brought a lawsuit on behalf of a 72 year old woman who died of a preventable heart attack.  Our client was a patient of Oakwood Southshore Medical Center.  She suffered a heart attack and died as a result of a failure to act on critical abnormalities seen on her echocardiogram (ECHO) just days before. An echocardiogram, also known as a cardiac ultrasound, displays 2D or 3D images of the heart and is a tool doctors use to assess its fitness and function.

     Our client was admitted to Oakwood complaining of chest pain, which was determined to be a heart attack. She underwent angioplasty and then admitted to the ICU for follow up care.The doctor ordered a 2D ECHO, taken on January 9th at 3pm.  That test revealed a pericardial effusion, or “fluid around the heart,” which is a dangerous abnormality. The doctor’s note for that day states: “Echo Done. Will Review.”

     Despite the abnormal and critical findings on the ECHO, our client’s pericardial effusion was not addressed by the physician. Four days after the ECHO, the patient was found non-responsive in her room and Code Blue (immediate resuscitation) was initiated. She was transferred to another facility where she had her second heart attack and her overall health rapidly declined.

     Our firm filed a lawsuit against Oakwood Southshore Medical Center, the doctors involved, and the sonogram technician for their failure to catch and treat the pleural effusion clearly seen on the ECHO, which led to her untimely death.


Half of Detroit’s Nursing Homes May Close Next Summer

Nineteen of Detroit’s 32 nursing homes must upgrade or install sprinkler systems by next summer to be certified and continue to receive the funding they need to stay open, according to a new study on aging, long-term care and dying.
Detroit has lost 16 nursing homes in 13 years, and most are struggling to remain open. 
Most of Detroit’s nursing home patients are covered by the state-run Medicaid system of health care for poor people. The facilities forgo federal Medicare dollars because they do not meet their certifications, a process that is costly and intense, though it could lead to millions more in reimbursements. 
Todd Johnson, the administrator of Law-Den Nursing Home in Detroit, is unhappy with the sprinkler mandate, though he is installing new sprinklers to meet the requirements. He says the time between installation and reimbursement is what makes it hard to survive. 
“You’re forcing me to spend $40,000 to $100,000, and you won’t be reimbursing me for two years?” Johnson said. “I’m running my building on a 2010 audit, so I’m not going to see that money for two years, and some nursing homes won’t survive that long.”
Johnson adds, “You’re always behind the gun, so while they’re giving you old money, you’re trying to meet new costs.”
Some of the information from this post was taken from a recent article by Rochelle Riley at the Detroit Free Press.


Challenges for Detroit’s “New Elderly”

Meet some of Detroit’s fast growing population, the “New Elderly”, people who are 50-59 years old but more like 60-74 in terms of their health. Based on a 3-year study of illness and death rates in Detroit and surrounding communities by the Detroit Area Agency on Aging, the report shows that in addition to accelerated aging, the elderly in Detroit die at a rate 131%  higher than their peers around Michigan.

This poses an important question:  Who will care for Detroit’s “New Elderly?”  Detroit once had about 50 nursing homes but now only has 20.  Thirteen have been lost in just the past ten years.  There has not been a new nursing home built since the 1960’s. The homes that still stand need help to stay open amid the rising costs.  Many need to make the necessary improvements and repairs to be eligible for federal Medicare dollars.

For the aging in Detroit without insurance or access to nursing facilities, their homes will be become a prison without proper equipment such as ramps and wheelchairs, or a trained staff to help care for them.  According to the report, Detroit loses out on 120 million in Medicare dollars that they could potentially charge, but do not charge because they do not have Medicare certification. Many of the facilities are just comfortable with Medicaid (state) reimbursements.  Some of the information from this post was taken from a recent article by Rochelle Riley at the Detroit Free Press. 


Fall Results in Death at Regency Healthcare Centre in Taylor, MI

A resident of Regency Healthcare Centre in Taylor fell and suffered a fractured leg. When theresident was found on the floor of her room, her alarm had been turned off and her bedside mat pressed against a table. This fall broke her femur (thigh bone) and she required surgery followed by heavy medication for her pain. Her health quickly declined and she died on Sept 13, 2010, two weeks after her fall.  Our office filed a lawsuit against the facility because it failed to ensure her alarm was on at all times and failed to put her bedside mat in the correct place, as dictated by her Care Plan. Also, multiple staff members documented that they provided care to the resident even after she was transferred to the hospital.  


Hospitalization Likely To Accelerate Alzheimer’s Decline

A new study finds that a stay in the hospital may not be beneficial to people with Alzheimer’s disease. The Massachusetts Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center followed nearly 800 people with mild Alzheimer’s disease, and about half of whom went to the hospital for falls, infections and other problems were less likely to go back to the way things were after being discharged. 
Hospitalization was associated with mental decline and death, and those who experienced delirium while in the hospital were more likely to have accelerated mental decline than those who did not.  The risk of going into a nursing home and dying in the year following hospitalization was higher for both groups of hospitalized patients. Those who developed delirium were 9.3 times more likely than non hospitalized patients to be institutionalized and 5.4 times more likely to die, while those who were hospitalized and did not have delirium were 6.9 and 4.7 times more likely, respectively.
“Delirium can be quite a problem for patients even with mild Alzheimer’s disease, and preventing it may be a more effective treatment strategy than the current medications,” said Dr. Tamara Fong, an assistant professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School and lead author of the study.
The study said some experts advocate treating Alzheimer’s patients at home as much as possible, as it would decrease the chance of delirium and may cut health costs for patients in other ways too.
If a person with Alzheimer’s must go to the hospital a few small steps can decrease the chances for delirium, like frequent visits with familiar people, taking walks, and not using painkillers too much as they can worsen confusion.


Inadequate Supervision Leads to Death at Portage Point Nursing Home, Hancock, MI.

A resident of Portage Point Nursing home suffered a fall that led to her death due to inadequate supervision during a transfer. The resident was severely impaired on a mental and physical level and required extensive assistance for transfers and general stability. Her care plan stated that she needed two or more people for transfers and could not be left alone in the bathroom as she was also a high fall risk.
On the day of her fall, the CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) left the resident unobserved in the bathroom while she went to find her gait belt, which is a support belt used for balance. The CNA stated in the report that resident “reached for the grab bar, grabbed it and pulled herself up. I looked and she was falling. By the time I got to her, she was on the floor.”
The resident’s legs were broken above the knee. She was transferred to the emergency unit where she died the next day.
If the CNA had all equipment necessary for the transfer, and had enough people to help as required by the care plan, she would have not left the resident unobserved. Such preventative measures could have spared this resident from unnecessary suffering.


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