WSPA, my hometown local news, reported on the prevalence of physical restraints in South Carolina nursing homes.  South Carolina restrains your loved ones at three times the national average.  Only one state physically restrains patients more often, and some local facilities rank among the worst in the nation.  There are numerous safety devices that can be used for safety that do not place residents in harm’s way.  Under a combination of state regulations and federal law, physical restraints can’t be used unless a doctor specifically authorizes it, and that authorization has to be renewed every 24 hours.

WSPA told the story of Charles “Eddie” Fowler who died from “positional asphyxia” or choked to death, strangled by the medical restraints that bound him to his wheelchair.  “He was all by himself,” Charles’ sister Deborah Cranford said. “Don’t know if he was calling for us, don’t know how he felt…he had to feel so alone.  They think he slid down from what the coroner said and the harness was strangling him the whole time,” she said.

State and federal regulators have tried for decades to eliminate the kinds of restraints that Cranford said killed her brother.

No place in the Upstate restrains a higher percentage of it’s patients than the Ellenburg Nursing Center in Anderson.  On average, about 11 percent of the patients at the nursing center are restrained each year, which is 10 times the state average and 26 times what you’d expect nationwide.  And at times, the numbers are a lot worse than that.

At Woodruff Manor in Spartanburg County, staff physically restrained more than 11 percent of its patients in the last three months of 2016.

Jason Blalock is a certified nursing assistant and up until last month worked at Lake Emory Post Acute Care.  “They would have like a seat belt wrapped around them that’s bolted to the back of the wheelchair, and wrapped around with an alarm on the back.”

Blalock said he was fired from Lake Emory Post Acute Care after he filed abuse complaints with the state.

We asked him, “how long would somebody be restrained like that?”

“For hours at a time,” Blalock said.

“For hours at a time?” we asked. “You saw for hours at a time patients restrained to their wheelchair?”

“Yes,” he said.

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