The SF Gate reported that a Minnesota nursing home worker had been fired for stealing drugs from a resident. North Ridge Care Center in New Hope reported the worker to health officials and the police. The worker stole Oxycodone from the resident who had been prescribed the narcotic for pain management. The worker admitted to taking medication from 12-24 patients over four months. As a result of the worker’s theft, the home implemented a new system to prevent medication theft. See full article at TwinCities.

The Arkansas Times reported a jury in Arkansas returned a unanimous verdict finding that the Greenbrier Nursing and Rehabilitation Center had been negligent in the care and treatment of Martha Bull.  Bull was admitted March 28, 2008 for 30 days of short term rehabilitation. During the night of April 6, 2008 she was in severe pain, sweating and unable to have a bowel movement. Nothing was done. The next shift, she continued to complain. A physician was finally called at 2:20 p.m. April 7. He ordered her transferred immediately to an emergency room. The director of nursing received the fax at 3:34 p.m., but was leaving for the day.  The nursing director failed to properly communicate the order.  No one saw the fax or was aware of it til after she was found dead.  Bull wasn’t sent to the emergency room. She screamed throughout the afternoon, so loudly that residents on other halls complained. She was found dead at 10:20 p.m. April 7. The faxed physician’s order was found the next day.

The jury found the nursing home guilty of negligence, medical malpractice and violation of resident’s rights.  The poorly trained and overworked nursing staff failed to follow doctor’s orders for emergency services and treatment of severe abdominal pain.  The jury awarded damages for pain, suffering and mental anguish at $5.2 million.

Even a frivolous and unsuccessful defense appeal will only be the beginning of a long road toward collection, if any.  Defense counsel spent all the liability insurance coverage for legal costs and fees — $100,000 in this case.   Defendants hired six different defense lawyers.  The nursing home is controlled by Central Arkansas Nursing Centers, a private company headed by Michael Morton of Fort Smith.  The individual nursing homes were organized as “freestanding limited liability corporations”, with licenses separate from physical property and small liability insurance policies through a self-insurance-style program based in Bermuda.

The nursing home fought the case for four years but as a trial strategy admitted in the early stage of the trial “that a mistake was made.”  The admission of a mistake came only after the trial began. If sincere, it should have done so long ago, expressed regret and demonstrated sincerity by trying to make things right.

In an article from the Shelbyville Times-Gazette, it was reported that Shelbyville nurse Brooke Sissom was accused of stealing pain medications from patients at the Manchester Health Care Center where she worked.  Brooke Sissom allegedly used the names and prescriptions of patients to order some potent pain medications which she proceeded to take herself, although it is possible that she may have sold some.

On October 12, she was arrested and charged with “nine counts of obtaining controlled substance by fraud,” while she was ordering new prescriptions. The nursing home staff became suspicious of her activities and notified the police, even going so far as to locate and save documents recording the sales which Sissom attempted to destroy.

She is responsible for endangering the lives of patients who were unable to receive their medications. Records from the Tennessee Board of Nursing have recently been brought to light, testifying that Sissom’s nursing license was place in probation back in 2009 due to “‘unauthorized removal of controlled substances without authorization’ and ‘incorrect entries in patient records.’” However, she has just been set free on a $10,000 bond.

In Greenwood, Mississippi, a Leflore County grand jury has indicted a former employee at Golden Age Nursing Home in Greenwood on seven counts of illegally obtaining drugs while on duty. The Greenwood Commonwealth reported that 46-year-old Stephanie Ray Barton is accused of taking painkillers from residents. If convicted, the licensed practical nurse faces up to 35 years in prison.

Barton is accused of stealing Lorcet, a prescription painkiller containing hydrocodone, by signing for the drug on patients’ records and then keeping it.

 

Nine in ten voters believe that it’s crucial that Medicare protect patient access to pain-management care delivered by Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs), according to a study released by the Mellman Group.  Medicare is considering rules that would effectively guarantee patient access to nurse anesthetists across the country.  Absent the rule, patients — particularly those in rural areas — could lose access to pain-management therapies they need.  86 percent of respondents said that the government should not interfere with patients’ ability to receive care from nurse anesthetists or other licensed health professionals of their choosing.

“Patients value the high quality of care they receive from CRNAs,” said Michael Bloomfield, Executive Vice President and Managing Director of the Mellman Group. “And they’ve made it clear that they don’t want the government interfering with their ability to get the pain care they need from nurse anesthetists.”

 

According to the survey results, Americans believe that to be a good thing — 87 percent say they want Medicare to continue covering pain care services. Nearly three-quarters support direct reimbursement from Medicare for all qualified health professionals that deliver chronic pain care.

“The nation’s 45,000 nurse anesthetists play a crucial role in delivering pain care to the 100 million Americans who need it,” said Janice Izlar, CRNA, DNAP, president of the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA). “The American people have spoken — and they support Medicare ‘s efforts to preserve access to CRNAs.”

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An interesting article reported on Minnesota Public Radio that two nurses, at separate facilities, have both been accused of stealing pills from their residents. A nurse in Fairbault facility stole Percocet, while another nurse in Inver Grove Heights stole Oxycodone.  In both cases the perpetrators were reported to the state nursing board by their facility managers. A new law in Minnesota requires all state health licensing boards to investigate ways to make background checks for applicants and licensees more thorough.

Incidents like these truly exemplify the need for more stringent background check procedures so family can be more confident in the quality of staff they are trusting their loved ones with.

 

The Pittsburg Post-Gazette reported that a Machelle Looney, a staff member from Lynn’s Personal Care Home in Windgap, Pennsylvania has been charged with stealing her residents’ morphine pills.   Morphine is a narcotic used to treat serious pain.   How could anyone take someone else’s needed pain medication especially someone hired to take care of a resident?

She then left the residents that were in her care alone while she left the home in attempt to sell the stolen pills. Some of the residents that Looney was responsible for suffer from dementia and require constant supervision.
Looney is charged with drug possession, possession with intent to deliver, theft by unlawful taking and reckless endangerment.
 

ProPublica’s Charles Ornstein & Tracy Weber report, "As the U.S. Senate Finance Committee launched an investigation Tuesday into makers of narcotic painkillers and groups that champion them, a leading pain advocacy organization said it was dissolving ‘due to irreparable economic circumstances.’" The American Pain Foundation, which ceased operations today, was the focus of a December investigation by ProPublica in the Washington Post that detailed its close ties to drugmakers.

The U.S. Senate Finance Committee launched the investigation due to "an epidemic of accidental deaths and addiction resulting from the increased sale and use of powerful narcotic painkillers." In letters sent by Senators Max Baucus and Charles Grassley, they note the growing body of evidence that suggests that drug companies "may be responsible, at least in part, for this epidemic by promoting misleading information about the drugs’ safety and effectiveness."

"The group received 90 percent of its $5 million in funding in 2010 from the drug and medical-device industry," note the reporters, "and its guides for patients, journalists and policymakers had played down the risks associated with opioid painkillers while exaggerating the benefits from the drugs."

Ornstein & Weber add, "The senators are targeting a who’s who of the pain industry, seeking extensive records and correspondence documenting the links, financial and otherwise, between them and the makers of the top-prescribed narcotic painkillers. Letters went to three pharmaceutical companies, Purdue Pharma, Endo Pharmaceuticals, and Johnson & Johnson, as well as five groups that support pain patients, physicians or research: the American Pain Foundation; American Academy of Pain Medicine; American Pain Society; Wisconsin Pain and Policy Study Group; and the Center for Practical Bioethics."

The Health Blog on the Wall Street Journal’s website had an interesting article on cutting health care costs and providing better care in the process.  "A better approach to advanced illness, including fewer hospitalizations, could improve quality of life and satisfaction for the sickest patients — and save $25 billion in annual health-care costs, according to Gundersen Health System.  Gunderson advocates helping patients and families prepare for end-of-life decisions, and avoiding unwanted treatments while providing comfort and pain relief.

Gundersen’s Respecting Choices program is a model for how hospitals, insurers, and patients and their families can work together to make sure people with advanced illness get the quality of care they want and have their wishes for treatment respected.

Part of the program includes having patients and physicians fill out a form known as a POLST — for Physician Orders For Life Sustaining Treatment. This is an initiative that lets people with advanced illness nearing the end of life make decisions such as whether they want life-sustaining treatments on a mechanical breathing machine.

 

 

The Herald from Everett, Washington reported the $3.5 million settlement between Everett Rehabilitation and Care Center owned and operated by Sunbridge Health Care Corp. Inc., based in New Mexico and the family of a 97-year-old man for shoddy care he received including failing to adequately care for a patient who had developed penile cancer and failed to notify the man’s family or his primary doctor that his genitalia were disintegrating.

The state Department of Social and Health Services had cited the home for failing to provide adequate care to the man.  A nurse on Nov. 7, 2007, reported to the home’s residential care manager that the man had a wound on his penis, records show. The manager went on a three-week vacation, and when she returned she forgot about the nurse’s report, according to an investigation conducted by the state Department of Social and Health Services.

She said she didn’t hear anything more about the man’s wound until a doctor at the hospital called on March 14, 2008 — four months later — to report that the man’s penis was gone and instead he had a gaping wound, records show.  He died March 31, 2008, about two weeks after he was rushed to an emergency room and doctors made the grim discovery.

State inspectors determined that the home had failed to meet a federal standard of care. No amount of money will compensate for the amount of pain the man suffered, Boller said.