Everett nursing home owner settles case for $3.5 million

EVERETT — The owner of an Everett nursing home has agreed to pay $3.5 million to the family of a 97-year-old man for shoddy care he received at the Everett Rehabilitation and Care Center.

A lawsuit was filed in 200

9 alleging that nursing home staff failed 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.

He died March 31, 2008, about two weeks after he was rushed to an emergency room and doctors made the grim discovery.

Lawyers for the man’s family reported Tuesday that they had recently reached a settlement with the nursing home, which is owned and operated by Sunbridge Health Care Corp. Inc., based in New Mexico.

“Settling the lawsuit is in the best interest of all parties in order to bring the matter to resolution,” nursing home administrator Elizabeth Loyet wrote in a statement.

She declined to provide any specific details, citing federal privacy laws about health care.

“We have not wavered in our commitment for the care of our residents. It is our utmost priority and we deliver that care as ordered by an attending physician, in accordance with the care plan designated for the resident,” Loyet wrote. “I want to assure Everett and the surrounding community that our team of caring staff remains focused on providing ethical care and quality of life for our patients and residents we serve.”

The man went to live at the nursing home in 2004 to be with his wife. She had become sick and needed around-the-clock care. She died a short time later, but the man decided to stay at the nursing home, Seattle attorney James Gooding said.

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.

“They knew his penis and scrotum were disintegrating and it’s outrageous that no one in his family or his primary care physician were ever notified,” said Matthew Boller, a lawyer associated with the Seattle law firm Graham Lundberg and Peschel.

There was no one nurse or nursing assistant to blame for the neglect, Boller said. The corporation made the decision to open two new speciality units at the nursing home and cut back on its certified nursing assistants, he said.

The nursing assistants are responsible for changing diapers and bathing patients.

“The place was woefully understaffed. That’s why this occurred,” Boller said.

The center’s director of nursing concluded that the man’s wound developed because he wouldn’t allow staff to conduct periodic skin assessments, state records show.

Patients have a right to refuse care, but nursing homes have an obligation to care for their residents, state officials said.

State inspectors determined that the home had failed to meet a federal standard of care. Administrators at the facility were required to submit a plan to make sure the problems weren’t repeated.

No amount of money will compensate for the amount of pain the man suffered, Boller said.

“It is our sincere hope that by establishing a public settlement, (the) case will bring to light the dangers that frail, elderly residents in nursing homes face, and show the nursing home industry that it will be held responsible when profits are put over people,” he said.

Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; hefley@heraldnet.com.

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