The News & Observer had an article about the civil lawsuits that have been filed against Britthaven after a Britthaven nurse heads to court on murder charges in the morphine-related death of a patient, and serious injuries to two other patients. Registered nurse Angela Almore ihas been charged with second-degree murder and patient-abuse charges related to the death of 84-year-old Rachel Holliday and morphine-induced injuries to six other patients. A medical examiner reported that Holliday died of pneumonia and that the levels of morphine in her system likely contributed to her death. None of the patients had been prescribed morphine.
The case of Jadwiga Orlowski v. Britthaven Inc. is one of the cases pending. The suit accuses Britthaven of negligence, including failure to monitor Orlowski, who suffered from dementia according to the complaint, and not providing a bed with side rails.
Her husband, Marian Orlowski, died of pneumonia on July 16 at age 86. Orlowski was a former distinguished professor in pharmacology at The Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, was nominated for a Nobel prize in 2004 for his pioneering drug treatment for blood-plasma cancer.
"Later on that same day, Dr. Marian Orlowski was found on the floor of his room," states a legal complaint filed by the Orlowskis’ attorney, Carmaletta Henson. "He had fallen and sustained serious personal injuries, including a fracture to his left hip."
Britthaven of Chapel Hill is one of four "special focus facilities" in the state. This designation by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services notes a pattern of substandard care. Chapel Hill Health and Rehabilitation, along with the Brian Centers in Goldsboro and Gastonia (owned by SavaSeniorCare), are also on the list.
Last year, CMS ordered Britthaven of Chapel Hill to pay $216,400 in fines because it was out of compliance with Medicare requirements. Those penalties stem from the case of Mary Lou Barthazon, a 95-year-old woman who likely broke both thigh bones near her knees on Sept. 30, 2007, when a nursing assistant dropped her while trying to lift her from a chair to her bed, according to a federal judge. The nursing assistant ignored Barthazon’s care plan, which required a mechanical lift. Her fractures went untreated for two weeks because the nursing assistant did not report the incident. Barthazon’s daughter, Anne Blanchard, insisted Barthazon go to the emergency room on Oct. 14. She died four days later.
Blanchard has sued Britthaven, alleging negligence and wrongful death. In her motion to dismiss the lawsuit, Britthaven lawyer Pamela Robertson denies "that defendants had a duty to supervise or control the clinical care, treatment or judgment of any healthcare provider."
Robertson’s motion also denies "that either state or federal nursing home standards, policies, regulations, rules or standards of participation establish the standards of health care applicable to Britthaven of Chapel Hill."
Britthaven tried to avoid a trial by forcing the case to arbitration. Superior Court Judge Abraham Penn Jones concluded that the contract was signed under duress as both she and her mother were suffering serious health problems and her 23-year-old daughter had only months earlier suffered partial paralysis in a rollerblading accident. Wrote Jones, "The contract is … procedurally and substantively unconscionable."