Monday, September 19, 2011

Woman's death raises questions about nursing home medical records

Falsified patient records are untold story of California nursing home care
Don Esco sought skilled nursing care at a Placerville facility for Johnnie, his wife of nearly 61 years, when she was recuperating from a bout with pneumonia. She died 13 days later. Esco sued, alleging that the medical charts lied about Johnnie's treatment.
After nearly 61 years of marriage, she died after a 13-day stay at the El Dorado Care Center in Placerville. Recuperating from a bout with pneumonia, Johnnie Esco, 77, was expected to return home with her husband after some rest and skilled-nursing care.
The nursing home and its former owner, Horizon West Healthcare Inc. would soon be at the center of another legal storm.
Johnnie Esco's death on March 7, 2008, led to a contentious civil lawsuit, investigations by California's Department of Justice and Department of Public Health – and the exhumation of her body from Arlington National Cemetery.
Last week, amid inquiries from The Bee, the state Department of Justice reopened its criminal investigation into Johnnie Esco's treatment at the facility.
The case also raised questions about an aspect of nursing home care that many patients and families take for granted: the integrity of medical records.
"They were just penciling in what they wanted to," said Esco, who obtained his wife's medical records after her death.
He summed up his findings during the lawsuit in one word: "Fabrications."

Esco's suspicions about his wife's care at El Dorado Care Center mushroomed into a broad lawsuit filed in 2009 against the facility and its owner, alleging elder abuse, wrongful death and fraud. An integral aspect of the suit, filed by Esco and his three grown children, accused the facility of falsifying, altering and improperly handling the woman's medical charts as far back as her day of admission.

"It's one of the worst types of elder abuse cases because it's not so obvious on its face," she said. "You really had to dig down."
For Clement, digging down meant digging through records, which she says revealed "a high degree of deception" at the Placerville facility. Clement and other attorneys who sue nursing homes say that falsifying patient records is remarkably common, yet rarely punished by licensing authorities or state and local prosecutors.
Industry representatives say these allegations of fraud are unwarranted and unfair, given the reams of paperwork facilities churn out to meet Medicare and other regulatory demands.
Read more:
Woman's death raises questions about nursing home medical records - Sacramento News - Local and Breaking Sacramento News Sacramento Bee

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