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Nursing Home Sued Over Woman's Death

Lawsuit alleges patient dropped on head, denied care, dies

Apr 1, 2003 | Ventura County Star

The son of a woman who died last year after she was accidentally dropped on her head and denied medical care for hours at a Camarillo nursing home is suing the facility.

In the lawsuit against Marriott Senior Living Services, Gary Reyome accuses the company of being more concerned with its bottom line than the safety of its residents because it hired and trained cheaply.

Calling the death of Gwendolyn Reyome "not an isolated incident," the suit alleges that Marriott "made a conscious decision to decrease patient care and increase profits by hiring, training and retaining unqualified applicants and employees with full knowledge that such actions would result in high turnover, staffing shortages and untrained employees."

Reyome is suing for general damages, medical and legal expenses and burial costs, and will seek punitive damages later, his attorney, Greg Johnson, said Monday. The suit alleges wrongful death, elder abuse, violation of patient rights and unfair business practices.

Ann Wood, area manager of operations for the home, declined to comment. Marriott sold Brighton Gardens on Friday, officials said.

The legal action comes after the state recently fined the facility, Brighton Gardens of Camarillo, $70,000 in connection with Reyome's death $60,000 for dropping her on her head and $10,000 for failing to summon medical attention quickly, Johnson said.

"The drop is innocent enough," he said. "The really disturbing part is the delay in treatment. They should have called 911 right away."

The incident occurred Nov. 4 when personnel at the nursing home were moving Reyome, 84, from a wheelchair to her bed.

They didn't use a "gate belt" a harness that serves as a safety net in case the patient falls and Reyome fell and hit her head.

That occurred about 6:45 p.m. During the next two hours, staff members faxed Reyome's doctor, even though the doctor's office was closed, according to the suit.

At 8:30 p.m., Reyome began vomiting, going into shock and suffering labored breathing. Nurses tried to page her doctor and received no response.

At 9:40 p.m., Reyome was comatose, the lawsuit reads. Five minutes later, nurses called her son, who insisted they take her to the hospital.

She died the next day. The cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head.

Johnson noted that the state average for complaints is five per year. Brighton Gardens, which opened in 2001, had seven that year and 10 in 2002.

The 45-bed facility some nursing homes have closer to 100 also has a high employee turnover rate, which Johnson put at 116 percent.

With such a high rate, "You either aren't paying enough, you aren't training people, something's wrong," Johnson said.

"This sort of thing happens for a reason."

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