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Neglected Patient Burns To Death In San Diego Nursing Home


An Escondido nursing home, which has been repeatedly cited for serious violations and abuse in the past, was slapped with the highest penalty of a $100,000 fine after a resident receiving oxygen caught on fire when he was smoking unsupervised. According to a news article in the San Diego Union-Tribune, this was the fourth accusation in three years made by state officials against Palomar Heights Care Center.

Nursing home officials apparently have nothing more to say about the incident other than it was an accident. But state records cited by the newspaper clearly show there is a lot more to this story. The man, who died of severe burns Jan. 11, was left alone with an oxygen tank smoking a cigarette and he wasn’t even wearing the flame-retardant apron as required by law. And the nurse who was supposed to be watching him was somewhere else filling out charts.

Could this be a case of understaffing in this nursing home? That is certainly a possibility. Nursing homes cutting staff to boost profits is considered to be one of the leading causes of nursing home abuse and negligence, according to the advocacy group, California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform. In fact, the nurse in this facility wasn’t even aware that her patient was on fire until she heard someone else call out a “code red.” The man reportedly burned for six minutes.

Previously this nursing home, operating under the name SunBridge Care and Rehabilitation, was cited for failing to report physical abuse of residents by nursing home staff as well as failure to follow doctor’s orders. In one case, a certified nursing assistant reportedly placed a pillow case over a resident’s head.

Nursing home abuse is getting more and more common with every passing day in the United States. State and federal regulations do too little too late in order to prevent abuse or even save lives. It’s not surprising then that we see a spurt in nursing home abuse lawsuits as well. As a personal injury law firm, it is now one of our major practice areas because these incidents harm and injure people at so many levels.

We particularly relish the opportunity to go after these unethical businesses, which do nothing to serve the people they promised to serve – not out of the goodness of their hearts, but for a significant amount of money that families shell out to find quality care for loved ones. We believe in this fight because it is about justice for our clients. And it takes us one step closer toward winning this battle against nursing home abuse, which has unfortunately risen to epidemic proportions in this country.

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