A 65-year-old Wisconsin woman was admitted to a nursing home outside of Milwaukee in 2008. The cancer survivor had a blood pressure condition that made her feel lightheaded while sitting or standing.
Less than a week following the patient's admission, the woman fell and struck her head. The fatal accident resulted in a wrongful death claim that was resolved in an out-of-court settlement.
The incident happened at the Mayville Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, owned by Extendicare. The patient summoned help to get out of bed. When no one came to her aid, the patient tried to move without assistance and fell. It is unclear how long the woman waited for help before attempting to stand up and walk.
The nursing home never reported the incident to state health officials. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services did not investigate because no complaint was registered within a year's time.
Wisconsin nursing homes are required to inform the state within one day about incidents and injury accidents involving potential carelessness. Many facilities fail to file a report by absolving themselves and staff members of negligence.
The husband of the Mayville patient named Extendicare in the wrongful death lawsuit. Extendicare has been the defendant in 30 malpractice, injury or death-related civil suits since 1986.
The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism learned state nursing homes and assisted living facilities are underreporting abuse and neglect incidents. The temptation to do so is great since the state often remains unaware of negligence unless a complaint is filed by a patient's family.
Wisconsin health officials investigate only when abuse and negligence reports or complaints are filed, unless a facility inspection uncovers direct evidence. Since nursing homes and assisted living centers do not report all incidents, it's up to patients' families to remain watchful.
Any suspicion of health care negligence should be reported to the state and discussed with a legal adviser as quickly as possible.
Source: wisconsinwatch.org, "Wisconsin nursing homes fail to report deaths, injuries," Sarah Karon, Feb. 18, 2013