IDPH has cited and fined Good Samaritan nursing home of Pontiac after a resident there suffered a fractured kneecap and femur due to being pushed in a wheelchair with no foot rests.
Wheelchairs are one of the basic pieces of equipment in use in nursing homes, and when used properly, they are very safe things to use for nursing home residents. However, the key is safe use – and when wheelchairs are being pushed by staff, this includes using the foot rests. It is acceptable for wheelchairs to be used without foot rests when residents are propelling themselves by walking their feet forward. However, when staff is pushing a resident, use of foot rests is required for safe use. The facts of this incident demonstrate why.
The resident at issue was admitted to the nursing home after suffering a fall at home in which she suffered a fractured pelvis. The resident’s Minimum Data Set (MDS) indicated that she was wheelchair bound and required assist of one staff members with transfers.
On the day of the incident, the resident was brought to the dentist’s office using the facility’s transportation van. The transportation aide did not place the foot rests on the wheelchair before leaving the facility. When they arrived outside the dental office, there was a handicapped ramp available to push the wheelchair up.
As the aide was pushing the resident up the ramp, her feet dropped and her legs got pulled underneath her. The resident experienced immediate pain at the knee. They got into the dentist’s office where the resident asked the staff for Tylenol. The aide told the staff that they could not give the resident the medication. The aide reported the incident and after the appointmenet was done, brought the resident back to the nursing home.
The staff obtained orders for x-rays which showed that the resident suffered a fracture to the knee cap and a fracture to the femur which extended down the through end plate of the bone. The resident was placed in a cast, but some two months after the incident, the resident was still in an immobilizer and she told the state surveyor that her doctor said that she would likely never be able to walk again.
The failure to use foot rests while pushing a wheelchair leads to a very predictable accident: the resident is not able to keep their feet elevated off the floor while being pushed forward. When their feet drop to the floor, the wheelchair keeps moving forward, pulling the resident’s legs underneath. Once that happens, one of two things happens: (1) there is a twisting mechanism which results in fractures to the legs or tears to the cartilage and ligaments; or (2) the resident is thrown forward out of the wheelchair.
Federal regulations pertaining to nursing home falls require that nursing home residents receive supervision and assistive devices necessary to prevent accidents. And while those regulations most commonly pertain to nursing home falls, they also apply to this set of circumstances. The failure to use the foot rests at the time of this accident led to this resident’s injury and was a violation of federal regulations.
The failure of the aide to know that this was necessary for safe use of the wheelchair speaks to poor training of the staff. One of our core beliefs is that nursing homes are built to fail due to the business model they follow and that unnecessary accidental injuries and wrongful deaths of nursing home residents are the inevitable result. Order our FREE report, Built to Fail, to learn more about why. Our experienced Chicago nursing home lawyers are ready to help you understand what happened, why, and what your rights are. Contact us to get the help you need.
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