A nursing home in Lemon Grove has been cited and fined $80,000 by the state for failing to properly supervise a 74-year-old woman who caught fire last year while smoking at the facility and later died of burn injuries. The “AA” citation against Lemon Grove Care & Rehabilitation Center is the most severe under California law and was issued by the California Department of Health, which inspects nursing homes for code compliance. Our source for this blog was this news report in the San Diego Union-Tribune.
The 158-bed nursing home has apparently received two minor citations last year and one in 2005, all with fines of $1,000 or less. The nursing home’s administrators have said they plan to challenge the AA citation and penalty in California Superior Court. They are also denying that they did anything wrong that contributed to the resident’s injury or death.
The state’s report says that no staff members were monitoring the woman and two other residents as they smoked on March 31, 2008 in the facility’s gazebo. The woman, who was seated in an electric scooter, pulled a nylon jacket over her head to block the wind as she lit her cigarette. The jacket caught fire and burned her head, chest and arms, the report states. She died of the San Diego nursing home burn injuries 10 days after this incident. The woman, who apparently suffered from memory loss, had lived at that Lemon Grove nursing home for more than a year. She smoked everyday, but needed to be reminded constantly to smoke only in designated areas.
There is no question in my mind that this woman died because she wasn’t properly supervised by the nursing home staff. The state’s report correctly points out that despite having knowledge of the woman’s tendency to get confused and disoriented, the nursing home did not provide preventive measures such as routine or random monitoring by staff to ensure this resident’s safety. A relative of the woman apparently told investigators that officials at the nursing home ignored concerns about the lack of supervision. The center also changed its policy since and required supervision at the gazebo while residents were smoking.
My heart goes out to the family of this woman who was clearly a victim of nursing home negligence. It is appalling to me that this San Diego County nursing home will not admit their fault and pay up the fine. The victim’s family in this case would be well-advised to contact a reputed California nursing home negligence and abuse lawyer, who will fight for their rights and make sure they receive the compensation they are due for their tragic loss.