Lawsuit Filed: Elderly Man with Cancer Suffers Horrific Pressure Sore Due to Negligence at Fremont Healthcare Center

Fremont, Calif. – John Ellwanger, an elderly man suffering from late stage lung, spinal and adrenal gland cancer, was admitted to Fremont Healthcare Center for assistance with activities of daily living, and to prevent the development and worsening of pressure sores. It’s alleged that during the ten days of his residency, the facility withheld required care from Ellwanger, allowing him to develop a severe and avoidable stage IV pressure ulcer, infection and other injuries. Further, the facility allowed Ellwanger’s injuries to compound by also failing to notice, report and respond to emerging signs of infection in the pressure sores. The severity of the wound required Ellwanger to be placed on antibiotics and be transferred to Washington Hospital for treatment.

Garcia, Artigliere & Medby filed a lawsuit against Fremont Healthcare Center for dependent abuse, and negligent hiring and supervision.

“Despite Fremont Healthcare Center being fully aware that John was a high risk for the development and deterioration of pressure sores due to his medical conditions, the facility consciously disregarded this risk and failed to provide him with necessary and required care,” said Attorney Stephen Garcia. “John’s injuries were entirely preventable had there been sufficient staff on duty, in both number and competency, to actually implement the protections required by the facility’s own Plan of Care, and physician orders and assessments. Unfortunately, it seems the facility was more focused on unlawfully increasing its profits as opposed to keeping its residents free from harm.”

Allegations and Background

In or around 2017, Ellwanger started to experience increasing lower back pain. He thought he had sciatica and went to a chiropractor several times for non-surgical treatments. The pain continued however, and eventually became excruciating.

On or about October 10, 2017, Ellwanger was taken to Washington Hospital, where he was diagnosed with stage IV non-small cell lung cancer that had metastasized into his spine and adrenal glands. During chemotherapy and radiation treatment, Ellwanger developed a bowel obstruction, requiring emergency surgery. Ellwanger was discharged to the Fremont Healthcare Center following colon surgery for rehabilitation and continued treatment with orders for 24/7 oxygen therapy.

It’s alleged that when Ellwanger was admitted to the facility on November 7, 2017, the facility was aware of his conditions, which rendered him a high risk for the development and worsening of pressure sores. The lawsuit states that despite this knowledge, the facility ignored Ellwanger’s needs, including failing to: properly and competently evaluate his clinical condition and pressure ulcer risk factors; define and implement interventions consistent with his needs, individual goals and recognized standards of practice; monitor and evaluate the impact of the interventions; or revise the interventions as it related to his pressure sore risk and development. Further, the facility failed to: ensure that that his need for constant attention and care to for skin via interventions, such as turning and repositioning his body at least every two hours to relieve pressure on his bony prominences; provide pressure-relieving devices such as gel-overlay mattresses to prevent skin breakdown; ensure that he was clean and dry, and free from feces and urine at all times to prevent pressure sores; ensure that he was properly hydrated and received sufficient nutrition to fight off the development of pressure sores.

In an apparent effort to cover-up the facility’s failure, facility nurses simply concealed the wound and infection from Ellwanger’s family, physician and legal representative, and untruthfully stated that it was a “small rash” and that nothing was wrong.

As a result of the facility’s failure to promptly notify his family, physician or legal representative of his emergent conditions, Ellwanger’s pressure sore unnecessarily and progressively worsened. Upon Ellwanger’s wife first discovering the buttocks wound, it was the size of a fist. It exposed bone and appeared like a black scab covered with dead tissue.