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Understaffing Causes Patient Death In Placerville Nursing Home

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A Placerville, California, nursing home has been fined $21,000 for its staff’s negligence, which California Health Department investigators say led to the death of 86-year-old Donald Forseth. According to an article in the Sacramento Bee, Forseth, a World War II veteran, died about two years ago after he became severely dehydrated at the El Dorado Care Center where he had been a resident for four months.

Health department investigators determined that the nursing home’s staff failed to monitor Forseth’s fluid intake, which caused the dehydration, kidney failure and eventually, death. Officials also said there were some serious staffing deficiencies at the nursing home. Forseth’s death sparked an investigation only after Carole Herman, president of Sacramento advocacy group Foundation Aiding the Elderly, filed a complaint.

It took California Health Department officials two full years to adjudicate this case and issue this report. I agree with Carole Herman that this delay is ridiculous and unacceptable. Forseth’s widow, Patricia, who had won a court settlement against the nursing home, has since died.

It is becoming more and more evident that state officials are not doing a good job of monitoring nursing homes in a timely manner. Not only that, but two years later, this nursing home has been let go with a meager $21,000 fine. Why did El Dorado Care Center not receive the state’s AA citation, which usually carries with it a $100,000 fine and the implication that the nursing home’s negligence was directly responsible for the resident’s death?

A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report in 2003 states that at least one in five of all nursing homes in the United States are plagued by serious deficiencies that place nursing homes residents in immediate danger or cause them actual harm. According to this report, quality of care in these nursing homes drops dramatically when residents receive less than three hours of the nurse’s and nurse’s aide’s time per day. Sadly that’s the case in about 54 percent of nursing homes.

Nursing home staff are underpaid and overworked. Nursing aides, for instance, are paid $7 to $8 an hour for work that is often strenuous and stressful. Nursing home negligence is directly related to understaffing at these facilities. The companies that own these nursing homes put profits over the vulnerable residents they are supposed to care for – and that should never, ever be acceptable.

If you have lost a loved one and suspect nursing home negligence, I’d like to hear about it.

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