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$65,000 Fine Set in Death of Patient

Officials say a Barstow convalescent home was at fault when a woman choked on a sandwich.

July 15, 2006|Rong-Gong Lin II | Times Staff Writer

A convalescent home in Barstow has been fined $65,000 and issued the state's most severe citation after an 83-year-old woman choked to death on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, state officials said Friday.

Staff members at the 59-bed Rimrock Villa Convalescent Hospital did not follow a doctor's orders to keep the patient sitting upright while eating and to remind the woman -- who was prone to choking -- to take small bites and drink between bites, according to the state Department of Health Services.

The woman was found unconscious Jan. 19, 10 minutes after she was given the sandwich for a bedtime snack. The patient, who suffered from diabetes, congestive heart failure, Parkinson's disease and dementia, was pronounced dead about an hour later.

Six months earlier, the woman had choked on bread. In that case, staff members successfully performed the Heimlich maneuver.

The state determined "there was no evidence that the facility developed a plan of care that addressed the patient's choking," despite a physician's orders, according to an official report.

An administrator for Rimrock Villa, Mary Lou Miller, was unavailable for comment Friday afternoon. The convalescent home is owned by Tennessee-based Life Care Centers of America, a for-profit corporation. The facility is entitled to appeal the decision.

The state attorney general's office will proceed with an investigation into possible violations of elder-abuse laws, which could result in a criminal or civil case, said Tom Dresslar, a spokesman for the office.

The state Department of Health Services oversees more than 1,300 nursing homes statewide. About 25 "AA" citations, the most severe possible, are issued each year.

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