Enloe Medical Center found liable for recklessness
CHICO >> Enloe Medical Center was found liable this month for reckless neglect of an 81-year-old patient. According to the obtained legal documents, the hospital will be ordered to pay the plaintiff roughly $650,000 as a result.
The trial stems from a September 11, 2019, admittance of 81-year-old Patsy Newton, a survivor of the Camp Fire. Accord
ing to The Law Firm of Sean Laird that represented Newton, she was administered to Enloe following a fall after church that left her with a broken femur.
The jury found that shortly after admittance, Enloe began neglecting the care Newton needed, including proper care of skin integrity that left her with a Stage IV pressure ulcer on her sacrum also known as a bedsore. The wound is known to develop most often due to lack of movement. Of the four stages of pressure ulcers, Stage IV is identified as including the loss of skin and tissue loss with exposed muscle, tendon, ligament, cartilage or bone in the ulcer. In court, Newton’s wound was described as “large enough for a man to stick his fist into.”
“Medicare calls this a never-event, meaning it should never happen under medical guidelines,” said Newton’s daughter Suzanne Bolen. “If it happens, Medicare doesn’t pay.”
Despite the discovery of the severe pressure ulcer,
less than 24 hours after it was found, Enloe Medical Center attempted to discharge Newton from the facility on the day Medicare reimbursement for treatment would end.
“The very next morning, they wanted to discharge her,” Bolen said. “The night before I was told by the doctor the (pressure ulcer) would get worse before it got better and she’d be in another 10 days so I was concerned.”
Newton said on Thursday when she found out about the hospitals plan, she became worried.
“Where they were sending me, it’s just a rehab. Because of the pressure wound, they couldn’t do rehab on me,” Newton said. “They released me way too soon. It just felt like they didn’t know what to do with me.”
According to evidence presented in court, the pressure ulcer developed to extreme measures because of hours passing without Newton being repositioned in the hospital bed to prevent further damage to the already infected sacrum. Additionally, the hospital kept no traceable evidence of care.
“Law requires you to put it in the medical record,” said Sean Laird, Newton’s attorney. “In their opening statement, they were saying that they did record turns — they recorded it on something called a ‘whiteboard.’ Then we found out it was literally the whiteboard in the room.”
Further evidence presented in court showed that the nurses and certified nursing assistants who were meant to provide care to Newton and other vulnerable patients were not familiar with the hospital’s policy language requiring documentation of turns. Nurses and certified nursing assistants on staff also informed wound nurses who came to check on Newton they didn’t have enough time to complete the turns.
Laird said that the confusion among hospital staff on the correct way to document turning and repositioning a patient to avoid pressure ulcers varied without a universally understood way of documentation.
According to obtained documents presented in court, since 2017 there have been 20 cases of selfreported pressure ulcers linked to the hospital of
similar nature. Currently, public documents show the hospital has seven active suits against them ranging from causing a patient paralysis to negligence resulting in amputation of a patients legs.
“They supposedly met with the nurse managers to correct this but it didn’t make its way back with nurses on the floor because by the time I’m involved in the case now a year and a half later, still no one knows what the policy is,” Laird said.
Per Enloe’s procedures, once Newton’s pressure wound was found, within 24 hours the hospital should have formed a patient safety team and contacted the family on the situation. The policy includes that the CEO of the hospital be informed of the situation as well as the chief of staff, the vice president of patient care services, and the director of the quality management.
“They found the wound on the 17th. I wasn’t contacted until the 19th,” Bolen said. “When I asked the hospital about it, they downplayed it.”
Documents from the court confirm this claim,
with Bolen testifying that until she was contacted by her mother’s friend following a phone call from Newton pleading for help, there had been no contact from Enloe on her mother’s condition.
Newton told this paper that her biggest frustration now isn’t the lingering wound, it’s the approach the hospital has taken.
“I don’t feel Enloe has ever taken it seriously,” Newton said. “They’ve never acknowledged that they did anything that was wrong. They’re saying that I got excellent care.”
Bolen added that despite her mother’s wound starting in 2019, it remains unhealed.
“The sore has not closed up — it never will. There’s a small hole there now that sometimes when she has friction on it, she gets slight bleeding. It’s just never going to go away,” Bolen said. “The whole process has been a nightmare.”
Newton told this paper she expects to live with the after effects the rest of her life part of which includes waking up every couple hours throughout the night and not being able to sit for more than 30 minutes.
“It’s been an ordeal. I can’t lay down and sleep for seven hours now. I have to accommodate this thing all the time,” she said.
As of writing, the jury has awarded Newton roughly $650,000 although Enloe still holds the possibility of appealing.
Newton said on Thursday it was never about the money. She hopes with the lawsuit she’ll be able to prevent someone else from going through the same thing she did.
“I feel like I have a wound and I’m sitting on something like rocks,” she explained. “It never goes away and the pain is with me all the time, it’s with me right now. I didn’t want the same thing that happened to me to happen to someone else.”
Enloe, when contacted for a response, said: “We believe that we provided appropriate care to our patient. It appears that the jury’s verdict was based on documentation issues related to the electronic health record, rather than the actual care our patient received. As this is still an ongoing case subject to post-trial motions and a possible appeal, we cannot comment further at this time.”