MLive.com reported that former director of nursing, Darren Coggins, will receive $100,000 after reaching a settlement agreement with his former employer Heartland Employment Services. Coggins was fired after complaining about understaffing and other unsafe conditions at the facility that put elderly residents at risk of injury. The facility’s management retaliated against Coggins by firing him after he called for the facility to hire more employees and fix its security protocols.
Coggins served as the nursing director at Heartland Health Care Center-Fostrian from January 2011 to September 2012, but his employment was terminated after two patients were able leave the facility by circumventing its security system. The facility used Coggins as a “scapegoat” and that it violated multiple state statutes, including the Whistleblower Protection Act.
Records show a developmentally-disabled resident was able to leave the building Feb. 4, 2012, despite wearing a device that was intended to alert staff in such a situation, by leaving through an alarmed door on the building. The door alarm sounded as the resident left but another resident, who was given the code to the door by nursing staff so he could smoke outside the facility unsupervised, deactivated the alarm. Staff found the resident alone in the facility’s parking lot.
A second resident was able to leave the facility Aug. 21, 2012, less than three weeks after an annual survey by the state revealed more than a dozen areas of concern at the facility. The state Licensing and Regulatory Affairs Bureau of Health Systems cited the facility for seven violations.
In that second incident, a wheelchair-bound resident with a history of dementia was found by a housekeeper in the facility’s parking lot, despite also wearing a device to alert staff, after someone on the nursing staff disabled the alarm system.