Lawsuit Filed: Woman Dies After Suffering Severe Wound Infection
Long Beach, Calif. — Maria Luisa Balguma, a 66-year-old woman, was admitted to Grand Valley Health Care Center for rehabilitation following back surgery. It’s alleged that while she was a resident, the facility wrongfully withheld required care from Balguma that resulted in an infection to the surgical wound in her back. She suffered sepsis and edema and ultimately succumbed to her injuries. According to the lawsuit, facility staff did not provide Balguma with necessary care and tests called for by physician orders and assessments, personal hygiene care to stave off infection, or proper nutrition and hydration. The facility further failed to protect Balguma from health and safety hazards when they discharged her to the wrong hospital without the necessary documentation reflecting her health status and needs. The suit alleges these failures led to the deprivation of necessary medical and emergency care and caused the surgical wound site infection to fester and exacerbate to a life-threatening stage.
Garcia & Artigliere filed a lawsuit against Grand Valley Health Care Center for elder abuse, and negligent hiring and supervision.
“Maria suffered entirely preventable injuries and needless pain because facility staff was unable and incapable of administering the appropriate care to her surgical wound,” said Attorney Stephen Garcia. “This neglect was a direct result of the facility’s chronic understaffing in both number and training. It’s clear the facility was more focused on maximizing profits than providing Maria the attention and care that she so desperately needed to recover from her back surgery.”
Allegations and Background
Balguma had serious medical conditions, including a history of strokes and most recently, had suffered a stroke in October 2017. On November 29, 2017, she underwent back surgery at Kaiser Hospital in Los Angeles. While at the hospital recovering from her surgery, Balguma began bleeding at the epidural injection site, and as a result, she required an additional procedure for evacuation and blood clot removal. She was unable to walk and even with assistance, could only walk a few steps.
On December 10, 2017, Balguma was admitted to Grand Valley Health Care Center and upon her admission, it’s alleged the facility was fully aware that she was unable to walk and suffered from conditions, including lupus and related lung diseases, diabetes-mellitus and atrial fibrillation. She was also taking blood-thinning medication and had a severe heart condition that remained unresolved despite surgical repair. Due to her limited mobility and other conditions, Balguma was dependent for all daily needs including toileting, feeding, dressing, grooming, transferring, bathing and mobility.
On December 11, 2017, a facility physician examined Balguma and informed Balguma’s daughter that there was serious drainage accumulating on her mother’s back in the incision area. The physician stated the facility would perform lab cultures to ensure there was no infection.
On December 15, 2017, Balguma was scheduled for a post-operative follow-up appointment. The facility initially refused to make transportation arrangements for Balguma because of payment concerns. It was not until Balguma’s daughter convinced the facility that payment would be forthcoming, that the facility arranged transportation. During the appointment, the physician observed that Balguma’s incision site had excessive moisture. He entered new orders directing facility staff to keep the wound open to the air. He also notified Balguma’s daughter about the skin breakdown on her mother’s back.
On December 16, 2017, Balguma’s daughter called the facility and spoke to her mother. She noticed that her mother was acting very uncharacteristically, including being very abrupt and hanging up suddenly. Balguma’s daughter asked the facility staff about the change in her mother’s condition and was told that Balguma did not want to get up that day and that she had not been eating much. On December 17, 2017, Balguma made strange statements to her husband who then immediately informed their daughter. Balguma’s daughter requested a physician evaluation and was told by facility staff that no physician was available until the following day.
On December 18, 2017, a facility physician informed Balguma’s daughter that they were sending her mother to the hospital. She then asked about the results of the December 11 lab cultures and was told they had not yet been received. The facility then incorrectly transferred Balguma to Kaiser Hospital in Panorama City instead of Kaiser Hospital in Los Angeles, and she arrived without the necessary documentation reflecting her health status and needs. Because of a wildfire in the area, Balguma was not transferred to Kaiser Hospital in Los Angeles until midnight of December 20, 2017. The suit alleges that the facility’s disorderly and unsafe transfer of Balguma deprived her of several days of much-needed emergency care, and upon arriving at the Los Angeles hospital, it was determined Balguma suffered from sepsis and edema. She then underwent additional procedures to drain the wound.
On December 30, 2017, Balguma underwent yet another procedure to remove the fluid accumulating within her wound and was placed on a vacuum-assisted closure to help heal the wound. In spite of the hospital’s efforts, Balguma’s condition declined rapidly from or between December 31, 2017, and January 2, 2018. Delirium set in, leaving Balguma disoriented and unable to communicate. Her kidneys shut down and she was unable to tolerate dialysis. She was placed in the ICU, intubated and provided medications to raise her blood pressure after she went into respiratory failure.
On January 3, 2018, Balguma coded and she was made a do-not-resuscitate status patient. On January 5, 2018, she passed away.