IDPH has cited and fined Newman Rehab & Health Care Center after a resident there suffered burns to his right lower leg and both feet due to his bed being placed directly against a hot electric baseboard heater.
The resident at issue suffered from multiple conditions, including dementia, Parkinson’s, myofascial pain, lumbar radiculopathy, and history of stroke. He had frequent falls, so as a fall prevention measure, his bed was kept in the lowest position which brought it down almost to the floor. However, because he was known as a difficult resident, the staff would at times skip rounding on him if he was sleeping to avoid “waking the bear” and also moved his bed right up against the radiator so that they could monitor him by keeping the door open without waking him up.
In each of the rooms at this nursing home, there was an electric baseboard heater which was originally installed in 1973. It allowed the temperature to be controlled in each room individually. When the temperature would be set at its highest setting (over 80 degrees), it was well-known to the staff that the baseboard radiator units would get very hot. Staff told the state surveyor that when beds were pushed directly against the radiators, it would be very difficult to pull them apart. They further told the state surveyor that when they came into contact with the radiator, they would have to move away quickly to avoid being burned.
During the inspection by IDPH, the regional maintenance director told the state surveyor that when the temperature is turned all the way up, the internal heating element for the radiator will run full speed until the target temperature is reached. When this happens. the heating element can reach 450 degrees. The nursing home no longer had the manuals for the heaters but some were located online which stated that there should be at least 6 inches between the radiator and any furniture. The regional maintenance director further told the state surveyor that they determined that at the maximum temperature setting, the metal covers could reach 175 degrees.
On the night that this resident was injured, the temperature was set at above 80 degrees – the highest possible temperature setting. The CNA on duty rounded on the resident between midnight and 1:00 a.m. but had to leave at 2:00 a.m. when another aide came on duty to replace her. The resident was not rounded on again until approximately 4:30 a.m., at which time she found that the resident’s bed was directly against the radiator with his right lower leg and left foot laying directly on the radiator. The resident’s room was very hot and he was in bed with a blanket and sheet and he had moved his legs out from underneath the blankets. The resident’s right calf was blistered and the outer portion of his foot was very red. There was skin peeling off the great toe of the left foot. Another aide who entered the room said the room smelled of hot burning flesh.
The resident was sent out to the emergency room where he was admitted for wound care and pain control. The wound on the resident’s right leg measured 27 x 9 cm, while the foot wound measured 5 x 3 cm, and the left foot wound measured 6 x 3 cm. He ultimately underwent surgery for skin grafting. The podiatrist who did the procedures reported to the state surveyor that there was some bleeding of the right leg wound when the procedures were done which indicated that there was some perfusion to the tissue which was a favorable sign for healing. However, the wounds to both feet did not have any bleeding which indicated poor circulation which placed the resident at risk for more debridements, more skin grafting procedures, infections, and possible amputations.
This was a very preventable injury – indeed much of the staff at the nursing home attributed the resident’s injuries to a lack of “common sense” – that a dementia resident’s bed should not be placed directly against the radiator and have the heat turned all the way up. The staff was well aware from their own experiences that even brief contact with the radiator would burn and that the heat was enough that after the beds were pushed up against the radiators it would be hard to pull them apart. Nursing home residents often have thin skin as a consequence of aging – this is one of the reasons that they are prone to developing bed sores – which also places them at risk for horrific burns from exposure to a hot radiator. When this is coupled with a mobility deficit, it sets the stage for just the kind of injury that was suffered here.
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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