In our Sacramento area, owners and two employees of a Citrus Heights care facility are being arrested and tried for the deaths of three of their elderly residents. It was around this time last year that a fire tore through the halls of the facility. All employees and some residents were able to escape the fire, with the exception of three.
Reports from the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District are showing the reason why these two were not able to escape the fire was because of unlawful restraints that held them in their rooms. One woman, Doris Bower, was not able to leave because railing on the side of her bed prevented her from getting out. Another woman, Virginia Esler, was trapped in her room by a locked wheelchair. The third woman, Marjorie Leroux, had a bed that was completely surrounded by railing. People were able to get Marjorie out of the fire eventually, but she died several days later from trauma associated with the fire.
An investigation was carried out that showed the restraints in place during the fire were against safety regulations. Through the investigation, other violations were also revealed. The fire was discovered to be a result of a resident who ignited a stuffed chair in her bedroom with a cigarette. There are regulations within residential care facilities that do not allow for any patient with dementia to be allowed to smoke, except in designated areas. One of the owners found the fire that night and seemingly put it out. Unfortunately, the fire began to smolder again and began the disastrous fire that eventually ended in the death of three.
The owners and two staff are being charged with involuntary manslaughter for these deaths.
Violations in care facilities such as this and elder abuse are a huge and growing concern in the United States. Reports from the United States General Accounting Office showed that in 1998, one-third of nursing homes in California were cited for serious and/or life-threatening problems within their facility. To magnify this problem, please take a look at the following statistics for counties within California:
In 1999, the U.S. Congress Committee on Government Reform (USCCGR) reported that of the 439 nursing homes in Los Angeles County, only one was in total compliance with federal standards of care.
In 2000, the USCCGR reported that only 18 of the 288 nursing homes in the San Francisco Bay Area were in full or substantial compliance with federal standards of care.
In 2001, the USCCGR reported that all 27 of the nursing homes in the 22nd Congressional District (Santa Barbara) violated federal health and safety standards.
No care facility should hold such low standards. If you have a loved one who has been abused as the result of a care facility’s negligence and disregard, please call me at the Law Offices of Moseley Collins.