Lawsuit Filed: Elderly Man Suffers Bedsores, Gangrene, Amputation
Tracy, Calif. — George Morelos Sr., a 92-year-old man, was admitted to Tracy Nursing and Rehabilitation Center for rehabilitative care and assistance with all activities of daily living following colon cancer surgery. According to the Complaint, while he was a resident of the facility, Morelos developed pressure sores on his heels and back that were not adequately treated. Staff even allegedly attempted to hide the sores from Morelos’ family, and once the sores were discovered, minimized their severity and did not report them to his doctor. As a result of this alleged negligence, the sores became dangerously infected and Morelos had to be hospitalized. At the hospital, he underwent painful skin debridement surgery to treat the now Stage IV sores. However, in spite of this treatment, Morelos developed gangrene in one of his legs, which had to be amputated. Sadly, he died days later.
Garcia & Artigliere filed a lawsuit against Tracy Nursing and Rehabilitation Center for elder abuse, and negligent hiring and supervision.
“George was admitted to Tracy Nursing and Rehabilitation Center expecting quality nursing care so he could safely recuperate from his cancer surgery. Instead, the facility showed little regard for his health and safety needs, which resulted in life-threatening injuries,” said Attorney Stephen Garcia. “As stated in our Complaint, the incompetent care afforded to George resulted from the facility operators’ plan to increase profits by retaining as many residents as possible, while not providing enough skilled nurses or other resources necessary to manage resident care. This negligence has been documented by the Department of Public Health on numerous occasions, and the facility has repeatedly promised to fix the deficiencies, yet nothing changes as they maintain the status quo in order to minimize their costs and maximize their profits.”
Allegations and Background
On September 13, 2018, Morelos was admitted to the facility for rehabilitation after undergoing colon cancer surgery. He also suffered from kidney failure and needed dialysis treatment several times a week.
As a result of his conditions, Morelos required assistance with all the activities of daily living, including turning and repositioning, transferring into and out of bed and wheelchair, dressing, grooming, bathing, hygiene, toileting, and medication management. His dependence and medical conditions made him particularly susceptible to developing pressure sores.
The lawsuit alleges that facility staff were well aware of Morelos’ clinical conditions and needs upon his admittance, including through information garnered from their own preadmission assessment. By admitting him as a resident, the facility took on the duty of providing adequate care that included preventing the development of pressure sores and infection.
To prevent pressure sores, skilled nursing facilities must keep a resident’s skin clean and dry, provide good nutrition and keep pressure off vulnerable parts of the body. Pressure is relieved by changing the person’s position as often as necessary and using such pressure-relieving devices as pads and special mattresses. The lawsuit alleges that the facility failed Morelos in this regard. On September 29, pressure sores were discovered on both of his heels by his family. In an effort to conceal additional skin problems, facility staff allegedly refused to allow Morelos’ family to check other parts of his body for wounds until finally, his family turned him over to reveal a coccyx sore. The family directed the facility to notify Morelos’ doctor about the pressure sores.
Skilled nursing facilities must notify residents’ doctors when pressure sores develop and must follow doctors’ treatment orders. However, the lawsuit alleges that the facility failed to inform Morelos’ physician about the sores or what was being done to treat them. Instead, nursing staff simply concealed the wounds and when asked about them by family, said they were “fine” or “healing.” As a result, Morelos suffered a horrendous pressure sore and facility-acquired infection.
On October 3, 2018, a wound care consultation was finally performed. The wound specialist ordered pressure-relieving boots for Morelos. At this time, his family again insisted the facility provide wound care to Morelos as ordered. Despite the repeated requests by his family, Morelos was routinely found without the boots or with the boots placed on backward, the suit alleges.
On November 26, 2018, Morelos was found by his family with a fever of over 100 degrees. Incredibly, the nurse on duty simply recommended that he be given Tylenol and that his physician be informed, according to the Complaint. During the same encounter, facility staff advised Morelos’s family about lab cultures that showed Morelos tested positive for infection. This was the first notification the family received from the facility that Morelos had an infection, the suit alleges. That same day, an emergency transport was arranged to take Morelos to Tracy hospital.
The lawsuit alleges that due to the facility’s delay in transferring Morelos for a higher level of care, his health suffered a rapid decline. At the Tracy Hospital emergency room, it was discovered that the foul-smelling pressure wounds on his heels were now open and infected and had progressed to Stage IV. He had to undergo daily painful surgical debridement procedures at the hospital to remove dead skin tissue. He was also treated in ICU with strong antibiotics for undiagnosed sepsis. This severe infection quickly led to life-threatening gangrene and leg amputation.
On December 2, 2018, Morelos passed away. Despite his advanced age and conditions at the time of admission to the nursing facility, Morelos’ quality of life was significantly degraded by the substandard medical care he received. The abuse and neglect Morelos experienced caused unnecessary and prolonged suffering both for him and his family, the lawsuit alleges.