Lawsuit Filed: Elderly Man Fractures Hip & Suffers Severe Infection Due to Fowler Nursing Home’s Negligence

Fowler, Calif. — Leonel Pena Gonzalez, an 84-year-old wheelchair-bound man suffering from dementia, was admitted to Dycora Transitional Health – Fowler for rehabilitation after multiple hospitalizations related to altered mental status, dehydration and a urinary tract infection that left him weak and with difficulty standing and walking. In the mere eight days that Gonzalez was a resident, it’s alleged the facility wrongfully withheld required care and services leading to Gonzalez falling and being found on the floor with difficulty breathing. When Gonzalez was transferred to Selma Hospital for further evaluation and treatment, it was discovered that he had fractured his hip and his urinary tract infection had worsened to an MRSA infection. Gonzalez was deemed unsuitable for necessary hip surgery until the infection was controlled.

Garcia & Artigliere filed a lawsuit against Dycora Transitional Health – Fowler for elder abuse, and negligent hiring and supervision.

“It appears Leonel’s injuries were not the product of an isolated failure but rather the result of alleged prolonged neglect and abuse that arose out of four calculated business practices by the facility. These practices included understaffing, relentless marketing and sales practices to increase resident census, utilizing unqualified and untrained employees, and recruiting heavier care residents for which the facility received higher reimbursements,” said Attorney Stephen Garcia. “We have reason to believe that the facility implemented these illegal actions to increase revenues and profit margins, which caused widespread neglect of residents, including Leonel.  Moreover, according to deficiencies issued to the facility by the State of California’s Department of Public Health, facility management was aware that such understaffing and deficiencies would lead to injuries of its residents but did nothing to correct these violations.”

Allegations and Background

Gonzalez was admitted to Dycora Transitional Health – Fowler from approximately September 10, 2018 until September 18, 2018. His medical conditions forced his family forced his family to place him in a nursing home as they were unable to properly care for him.

Upon admission, it’s alleged the facility was well aware, through assessment information, family information as well as physician’s notes and orders, that Gonzalez had a propensity to wander when left unattended and tendency to attempt unassisted transfers. Additionally, he was a high risk to suffer falls and therefore required special care and assistance, including 24-hour supervision and monitoring, assistance and monitoring with ambulation and transferring, the provision of safety and assistance devices to prevent accidents, assistance and monitoring with activities of daily living, and the implementation of interventions to prevent further falls. Notwithstanding this knowledge, it’s alleged the facility knowingly disregarded these risks, and wrongfully withheld required care and interventions.

On September 17, 2018, Gonzalez attended a physician’s appointment accompanied by his son and was returned to the facility the same day. According to the complaint, no one from the facility had mentioned to Gonzalez’s family about his increasing issues regarding the fall risks and infections, or what was being done to treat and address these issues.

Accordingly, after days of alleged near misses and prior actual falls which had been ignored by the facility, Gonzalez was found on the floor by an inadequately trained staff member.

On September 18, 2018, Gonzalez’s family received a call from the facility to inform them that they were transferring Gonzalez to Selma Hospital for further evaluation and treatment. When the family inquired regarding the reason for the transfer, facility staff explained that they found Gonzalez on the floor and he was having difficulty breathing. There was no mention of any fall, infection or hip fracture at this time.

Upon arrival to Selma Hospital that same day, Gonzalez’s family was informed that his urinary tract infection had worsened to an MRSA infection. They were also informed that he had a hip fracture which required immediate surgery. Unfortunately, Gonzalez was unsuitable for surgery until the infection was controlled.

During Gonzalez’s hospitalization, hospital staff asked his family what medications he should have been receiving and if he had a history of suicide attempts. Gonzalez’s family was shocked and confused, and prompted them to investigate what happened the prior day.

On September 19, 2018, Gonzalez’s family went to the facility and facility staff told his son that they could not give him any information “because he wasn’t on the list.” Gonzalez’s son was, however, present upon his admission and had signed his father out the day before the incident to take him to a physician’s appointment. Notwithstanding these realities, the facility persisted in refusing to disclose any information to Gonzalez’s son in an alleged effort to conceal the facility’s misconduct.

As stated in the lawsuit, the facility knew that it suffered from understaffing, lack of training, failure to allot sufficient economic resources, unfitness of staff in capacity and competency, and this inevitably led to improper withholding of required care and/or custodial services to residents, including Gonzalez, which led to his injuries. It’s believed the facility established and implemented a financial plan and scheme which led to the facility being understaffed in both number and training, by way of imposing financial limitations on the facility.