A 44-year-old woman who suffered permanent brain damage as a result of poor care she received in an El Cajon County owned nursing home has been awarded $1.6 million in a court settlement. Ruth Lomeo suffered severe brain injuries after she was given excessive pain medication at Edgemoor Geriatric Hospital in Santee. Staff at the nursing home also waited 20 minutes to call 911 after Lomeo began to have breathing problems. Lomeo sustained brain damage from lack of oxygen. Our source for this blog was a news report in the San Diego Union Tribune.
Nursing home officials contended that they had done nothing wrong and said that the nursing home had corrected any existing deficiencies. But the point is, those corrections, if they happened, came too late for Ruth Lomeo. In her case, a horrible damage had already been done. Lomeo, a lupus patient, was sent to the nursing home for recovery. Instead, her brain injury has left her with the mental ability of a 5-year-old, unable to care for herself or communicate with her family members. Further, she is going to need 24/7 care for the rest of her life.
The county’s attorney says the nursing home made a “business decision” to settle this case. They were simply concerned that this case could have cost them a lot more if it had gone before a jury. The problem with many nursing homes is that they are becoming more of a business and less of a service. They are becoming increasingly conscious of their profits, which is certainly important. Without profit, any business will cease to exist. However, it is unethical and inhumane for a business, especially one that cares for vulnerable, frail individuals, to put profits over the precious lives of the people they care for.
A Government Accountability Office 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 home residents in immediate danger or cause them actual harm. According to this report, the quality of care in nursing homes drops dramatically when residents receive less than three hours of the nurse’s time per day. Sadly, that is exactly what happens in about 54 percent of our nation’s nursing homes.
A large number of nursing homes neglect their customers and are not able to provide quality care because they deliberately understaff their facilities. They don’t want to spend the money it takes to hire qualified nursing staff or aides. Their staff lacks the time, qualifications, knowledge or the ability to care for customers.
Nursing home abuse lawsuits are the only recourse for those individuals and families who have been unfairly victimized by nursing home negligence or abuse. Hitting these companies in the pocket book seems to be the only way to get their attention.