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Fresno nursing home is fined $80,000 in patient's death

March 20, 2009|Rong-Gong Lin II

State authorities fined a Fresno convalescent hospital $80,000 Thursday, four months after a 54-year-old schizophrenic patient choked on a meatball and died.

Raintree Convalescent Hospital had known the patient had problems swallowing, meaning the spaghetti meatball served to him Nov. 19 should have been chopped or sliced, according to an investigation by the California Department of Public Health.

But both the cook and the nursing assistant who served the meal failed to grind up the meatballs, as required, according to the state. "I just did not think to chop up his meat that day," the nursing assistant told state investigators.

The man stumbled out of his room, pale and unable to speak. After a nurse unsuccessfully attempted the Heimlich maneuver, paramedics were able to suction the meatball out of the man's airway, but he was pronounced dead at a hospital emergency room.

The nursing assistant and cook were immediately suspended and later fired, said Antonio Sandoval, assistant administrator at Raintree Convalescent Hospital.

Sandoval said the cook failed to follow the directions for the patient's meal by not mashing up the meatball. He also said the nursing assistant failed to look at the meal card on the patient's tray -- which would have been a second chance to catch the error -- before serving the lunch. "Neither one did their job," he said.

The facility has one star out of a possible five on a federal rating system for nursing homes that began last year by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

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ron.lin@latimes.com

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