Local law firm Janssen Malloy LLC, which recently filed two complaints alleging patient neglect and abuse
against local skilled nursing facilities, has added another case to its slate, accusing Eureka Rehabilitation and Wellness Center of discharging a dependent adult into a hotel without proper medical care in October of 2016. The man, who was blind and had a host of behavioral and physical problems, died four days later.
In a complaint filed March 10, Janssen Malloy alleges that a 65-year-old dependent adult, Alan Dewey, died of neglect after being discharged from Eureka Rehabilitation and Wellness Center on Oct. 14, 2016. Filed on behalf of Dewey's sister, Sherri McKenna, the complaint describes Dewey as having a "seizure disorder and multiple complex medical problems, including bi-polar disorder, chronic pain, anxiety, blindness and encephalopathy due to hypertension and [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease]."
Dewey was initially admitted to the facility Dec. 22, 2014 from the Humboldt County jail. The complaint states that he suffered a significant brain injury in 1975 and also suffered from dementia, and that he was prone to becoming easily agitated, with "angry outbursts of behavior."
According to the complaint, at the time of admission to the skilled nursing facility,Dewey was not able to self-administer his own medications. He stayed at Eureka Rehabilitation and Wellness Center for two and a half years, until Oct. 13, 2016, when someone representing the facility (the complaint does not specify whom) told him he could no longer live there. Dewey was driven to the Clarion Hotel in Eureka and left with a half-gallon of milk, instant noodles and Velveeta macaroni and cheese, as well as his medications and CPAP machine. He was left there, alone, and told he could stay there for 30 days. The complaint states that he was promised home health care visits, but none were made. He was found unresponsive on Oct. 17, and died the following day.
The complaint references last year's standoff between Brius Healthcare Services, the owner of the facilities, and Partnership HealthPlan, the region's MediCal distributor, in which Brius threatened to close several Humboldt skilled nursing facilities unless Partnership raised its reimbursement rates. The negotiations between Partnership and Brius took place during the same period in which Dewey was allegedly abandoned.
"Prior to closing, Eureka [Rehabilitation and Wellness] is required to give 30 days' prior notice to each resident, perform an appropriate assessment of each resident, and arrange for appropriate future medical care and services," the complaint states. "Plaintiff is informed and believes that defendant Eureka discharged Mr. Dewey in an effort to clear its facility and decrease the onerous requirements for resident transfers."
The complaint lists a wide spectrum of plaintiffs, including all of the various companies that make up the complex corporate structure of the skilled nursing entity, including Rockport Administrative Services, Brius LLC and Brius' owner Shlomo Rechnitz. The exact identity of those responsible for making the decision to discharge Dewey has not been determined, but this information may be added in an amended complaint. All parties are accused of dependent adult abuse, neglect and wrongful death.
Area 1 Agency on Aging Longterm Care Omsbudsman Suzi Fregeau could not comment on the specifics of this case, but acknowledged that understaffing in skilled nursing facilities can amplify problems with combative or violent patients, as Dewey is described.
"When someone is acting out, when you're so short staffed, you don't have the time or resources to find out why," said Fregeau. "Is he in pain? Is he frustrated? Is he just an angry man?"
Fregeau also said the impacted local housing market may also lead to patients staying in long-term care after they're safe to discharge because they've been unable to pay rent while in care, further taxing the limited staffing.
Dewey's sister, Sherri McKenna, declined to comment for the story at this time. The Journal
has reached out to Janssen Malloy, as well as Brius and Rockport, for comment, and will update when we receive more information.