For many, a short-term admission to a post-acute care facility to recover from an illness or provide a break to a caregiver sounds like a reasonable proposition. After all, what could go wrong during a short term admission of just a few days or weeks?
Despite the short timeframe, without the facility’s understanding of patient needs, short-term admissions of any duration, can lead to patient injury or even death.
Our nursing home abuse practice at PMHP Law recently represented a family who reminds us all just how dangerous a short-term facility admission can be. This particular case involved a man who was placed in a facility after heart surgery in order to get the proper care and attention necessary after such an ordeal. The surgery had been successful and the prognosis from the physicians involved could not have been better. However, the recovery was going to require close monitoring of a blood thinner during recovery.
Although hospital records indicate a dosage of 4 mg of Coumadin, physician’s orders upon admission to the facility indicated a continued dosage of 5 mg daily. Of course, Coumadin use can be very dangerous when the patient’s anticoagulant levels become too high. So physician’s orders at the time of admission also required immediate follow-up by the facility’s physician with blood testing and adjustment of the Coumadin dosage to guaranty that the anticoagulant levels would stay within therapeutic parameters.
These medical requirements were well documented in the facility’s charting and were well-known to their staff. Despite their full knowledge of physician’s orders that the patient be carefully monitored for appropriate Coumadin use, the staff never made a doctor available during his stay at the facility. Four days after admission, the patient’s attending heart doctor at the hospital that had performed the heart surgery called the facility. He was very upset that there had been no follow-up by a physician to check lab values and adjust his Coumadin dosage accordingly. At all times, the staff continued to administer Coumadin, 5 mg daily. As a result, the anticoagulant in the patient’s system reached toxic levels and he died.
There were a number of factors that resulted in patient’s illness, suffering and death. Among others:
- Failure to provide patient prompt and appropriate access to a medical doctor to continue his anticoagulant therapy,
- Failure to conduct timely and appropriate testing to properly assess his anticoagulant levels,
- Continuing to administer Coumadin after his anticoagulant had reached critical levels,
- Failure to timely and appropriately report his medical condition to the doctor,
- Failure to provide him access to a medical doctor, emergency physician when his complaints and symptoms called for prompt medical attention,
- Failure to prevent the worsening of his condition,
- Failure to follow physician’s orders upon admission in all of the above,
- Failure to follow standard protocols for the provision of care, treatment and services in all of the above,
- Failure to follow his care plan in all of the above,
- Failure to properly monitor and chart his medical condition and the course of care,
- Failure to properly hire and staff their facility,
- Failure to properly train staff,
- Failure to properly monitor and supervise the staff.
While the above circumstance may be alarmingly extreme, many facilities fail to address some of the most basic care related needs for patients when they know that they are only at the facility for a short period. From a medical and legal perspective, this ‘hands off’ approach to evaluating short-term patients’ care related needs is simply unacceptable.
Regardless of the duration of the admission, whether for a few days or for an extended period, all facilities have a duty to care for the patients that they admit.
From the perspective of a family or patient, it is important to treat short-term admissions as you would any admission to a medical facility and incorporate the following measures:
- Clearly articulate any special needs or requests to staff members
- Provide staff with information and contact numbers for treating physicians
- Make all medications and dosages known
- Convey special medical needs to staff
- Bring relevant medical records
- If coming directly from a hospital, bring discharge orders
- Provide emergency contact information
- And STAY IN COMMUNICATION with all involved parties
PMHP Law, LLC represents clients throughout Georgia and the Southeastern United States. To schedule a free consultation with a lawyer at our firm, call us at 404-856-0040 or visit us online at www.eldercareabuselawyer.com.
Serving clients in:
Atlanta, Bartow, Cherokee, Cobb, Floyd, Fulton, Whitfield, Douglas, Polk, Chatham and all of Northwest Georgia, North Georgia, Central Georgia and South Georgia, as well as much of the Southeastern United States.