Rochester nursing home at fault in resident’s fatal fall

Published 10:09 am Friday, June 13, 2014

By Chris Serres

Star Tribune

ROCHESTER — A Rochester nursing home was found responsible for neglect after it failed to properly maintain mechanical lifts, causing a resident to fall from a harness and die in March, according to a Minnesota Department of Health investigative report released ­Thursday.

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The 80-bed nursing home, Maple Manor Health Care & Rehabilitation, failed to implement safety precautions after experiencing ongoing problems with safety catches popping off a mechanical lift for moving patients called an EZ Lift. The facility had no records of any inspections or maintenance performed on the lifts, according to the Department of Health report.

The resident, who suffered from severe dementia, was being transferred from a bed to a wheelchair when the transfer harness slipped, and the resident fell 4 feet from the harness. The safety catch, which secures the transfer harness on the lift, was missing. The resident suffered fractures of the spine and a scalp laceration from the resulting fall and died five days later at a hospital.

Staff at Maple Manor did not return repeated calls for comment Thursday.

The misuse of mechanical lifts has been the cause of numerous deaths and injuries at senior homes across the nation. The lifts contain straps and harnesses that are needed to keep the patient safely in place during transfers. When these are not attached properly before the lifts are activated, frail and elderly people can suffer fatal falls. In other cases, the lifts have tipped over when the move is done improperly.

There have been at least four deaths at senior homes in Minnesota involving mechanical lifts since 2010. In 2012, workers at an Eden Prairie nursing home failed to check that all of the loops on a sling were attached to a mechanical lift. The resident fell to the floor, suffered a collapsed lung, and developed respiratory and renal failure before dying three days later at a hospital, according to a Department of Health report.

“These devices are simple, but they need to be operated correctly,” said Mark Kosieradzki, a Plymouth attorney who specializes in cases of nursing home neglect and abuse. “We see over and over again that facilities cut corners in operating lifts and people die.”

Maple Manor had experienced problems with safety catches popping off its mechanical lifts for six to nine months before the resident’s death, state investigators found. “The facility failed to implement a system to reduce avoidable accidents with EZ lift mechanical devices,” the Department of Health wrote in its report.

The death marks at least the fifth time this year that a senior home in Minnesota has been found responsible by state regulators for neglect ­following the death of an elderly ­resident.

—Distributed by MCT Information Services