Criminal Charges Filed Against Three Nurses After Patient Fell From Lift, Broke Both Legs, and Died

Criminal charges were filed recently against three former nursing home employees who reportedly failed to obtain medical help for a 60-year-old patient after she was dropped and suffered two broken legs.  The patient was reportedly being transferred with a mechanical lift from a wheelchair to her bed when the fall occurred.  The patient's family claims the patient asked for help, but that the nursing home's staff dismissed her complaints and tried to convince her she "had a bad dream." 

The patient was not transported to the hospital until five days after the fall.  She died within one day of her hospital admission.  A representative of the Gateway Care and Retirement Center, where the fall occurred, said two of the three employees were fired and the third resigned shortly after the patient died.  The nursing home had been cited 13 times for violating federal patient safety standards during a 15-month period in 2006 and 2007.  Read more about the criminal charges filed against the facility's nurses.

This case is horrible!  I can't imagine the pain this patient experienced after fracturing the bones in both legs.  I can understand even less the five-day delay that occurred after the fall before her leg fractures were diagnosed and she was hospitalized.  She should have been more thoroughly assessed for injury after the fall and received prompt medical attention, including x-rays.  I've yet to handle a case involving a fall from a mechanical lift (Hoyer lift, Vanderlift, Sabrina, Stella, Ergostand, Voyager) that did not result in a fracture or significant head injury. 

While I am sad for what this patient and her family had to endure, I'm happy to see law enforcement take a more active role in responding to and investigating cases involving institutional neglect and abuse.  The police are underutilized following these types of incidents and injuries in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.  Of course, law enforcement would never need to become involved if facilities would just be more careful during transfers.
Robert W. Carter, Jr. is a Virginia attorney whose law practice is dedicated to protecting the rights of the victims of nursing home and assisted living neglect and abuse in Richmond, Roanoke, Norfolk, Lynchburg, Danville, Charlottesville, and across Virginia.