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Hospices Receive Allegations of Neglect and Abuse Resembling Nursing Home Abuse

As a Philadelphia injury lawyer, I focus my nursing home abuse practice on fighting abuse of vulnerable elderly and disabled people in nursing homes. But according to a July 22 article from Bloomberg News, nursing homes aren’t the only places where able-bodied people neglect and take advantage of the sick — hospice care companies have come under fire. The article outlines allegations that some hospice companies, especially for-profit hospice companies, routinely neglect the medical needs of their patients. It also reports allegations that for-profit hospice companies have pushed hard to admit people who are not terminally ill or who are expected to live a long time, and keep them from being discharged while still alive, so they can maximize their payment. In many cases, these companies are being paid from Medicare and Medicaid, just like nursing homes.

One such company is Vitas Healthcare, a subsidiary of Chemed Corp. Robert Rogers of California is suing Vitas over the death of his mother, Thelma Covington, from sepsis brought on by gangrene in her toe. Medical records show that a Vitas doctor requested cleaning and ointment for the wound on Covington’s toe in early July of 2008, but this was never carried out. In late July, the treatment was discontinued without having started. When she complained of intense pain, nurses gave her morphine and a sedative. A month later, nurses noted signs of gangrene, yet noted “interventions effective.” A few days later, a nurse found the maggots and wrapped the toe in plastic. When Rogers visited and found his mother in severe pain, wheezing and passing out, he asked Vitas employees to admit her to the hospital, only to be told that “our job is not to prepare them to live.” He called 911 and an emergency room doctor eventually removed 11 maggots from an open wound on Covington’s toe. Covington died in the hospital two days later.

This lengthy article contains several other stories of alleged patient neglect at for-profit hospice companies. As a Pennsylvania nursing home lawyer, I wouldn’t hesitate to sue over many of these allegations of neglect and elder abuse. The article describes companies whose motive is very clearly profit rather than patient care, with dubious medical diagnoses used to admit some patients and allegations that they were routinely understaffed to save money. Understaffing is a major cause of Pennsylvania nursing home abuse, because employees stretched too thin simply can’t give all the patients the attention they need. As a Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyer, I hope lawmakers take note of this and take steps to ensure that laws against abuse and neglect apply to hospice care just as well as nursing homes.

Rosenbaum & Associates represents families throughout eastern Pennsylvania who are suing to hold abusive nursing homes legally and financially responsible for harm to someone they love. If you’d like to know more or would like to tell us about your situation, we’d like to hear it. Call us toll-free at 1-800-7-LEGAL-7 or send us an email today.

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