Residents of nursing homes and skilled care facilities are some of the most vulnerable people in our society, yet they are often neglected and sometimes even abused by those whose job it is to care for them. On March 6, 2018, there was a senate hearing to examine the devastating abuse and neglect that is present in nursing facilities, including the sexual assault of Sonja Fischer, who was 83 at the time. George Kpingbah, 76 year-old nursing assistant, was found in the early hours of December 18, 2014 raping Fischer, who was unable to yell out for help or fight back due to her limitations. Unbeknownst to Fischer's family members, this was not the first allegation of abuse by Kpingbah. He had been suspended three times prior to this assault on suspicion of sexual abuse, yet the facility still allowed him to continue working the night shift.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has implemented more rigorous standards for the Five-Star Quality Rating System for nursing homes. The standards now require additional data from hospital readmissions, a lower threshold for staffing penalties, and separate evaluations for short-term and long-term stays. The star-rating overhaul aims to improve the quality of care at nursing facilities around the country, in addition to improving the reliability of ratings, and comes as a response to criticism of CMS for being too lenient in the past.
In June, a jury awarded $5 million to the estate of a woman who passed away at an Alabama hospital after developing severe pressure ulcers. She was admitted to the hospital in August of 2015, and the family filed a lawsuit in October of 2015, citing that the hospital failed to follow their own policies to properly turn and reposition her in bed. The hospital knew she was at risk for pressure ulcers, as she was mostly bedridden. The hospital staff also falsified medical records to show care that was not actually provided. The patient developed pressure ulcers (also called "bed sores") on her lower back and upper arm. She died on November 3, 2015, with the pressure ulcers causing her significant pain and suffering towards the end of her life.
Contractions are vital to the birth of a baby. They cause the cervix to dilate, while helping the baby descend into the birth canal for a safe delivery. Pitocin, the synthetic drug that simulates the natural hormone oxytocin, is often used to artificially induce labor by causing and strengthening contractions. However, a common side effect that most women getting induced are unaware of is excessive uterine activity that can harm the baby.
Judge Dan Schneider was only 68 years old when he passed away from not receiving needed antibiotics in 2013 after 24 days at the Louisville nursing home campus of the Masonic Homes of Kentucky. Recently, the nursing home company and pharmacy have agreed to a settlement of nearly $13 million to the family.
Spastic cerebral palsy is characterized as damage to the brain's motor cortex that causes increased muscle tone, stiff joints, and jerky movements. This condition prevents normal development of motor function. It is often caused by a lack of oxygen in a child's brain during birth. Excessive uterine activity, such as too strong or too frequent contractions, affects the amount of oxygen that reaches the baby's brain. If the excessive uterine activity is prolonged, the baby can develop hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), a type of brain damage that occurs when the baby's brain doesn't receive enough oxygen during birth. HIE is an often-preventable birth injury, and often stems from improper contraction monitoring and lack of intervention from nurses and doctors when the baby is in distress. It can have devastating, lifelong effects, such as spastic cerebral palsy. Spastic cerebral palsy can develop from HIE.
In 2017, Kentucky enacted a law that required any medical malpractice claim to be reviewed by a panel of experts and an attorney before the claimants could file their suit in court. This caused a mandatory delay, contradicting Kentucky's own constitution that states every person has access to the courts without delay. At the end of 2018, this law was declared unconstitutional. Cases in Kentucky can move forward much faster now.