Workers at Clement Manor ignored alarm, lawsuit says

Posted by PKSD Law Firm on Sep 01, 2010 in Nursing Homes and Elder Rights

Alert answered four hours after cord pulled

By Tom Tolan of the Journal Sentinel

Aug. 31, 2010

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Workers at the Clement Manor complex in Greenfield inexcusably and unconscionably ignored for four hours an emergency alarm set off in an apartment at the complex as the resident bled to death, according to a lawsuit filed this week.

One nurses aide received a call about the alarm while she was watching TV and instead of following up, went back to watching TV, according to the complaint filed Monday in Milwaukee County Circuit Court and a Greenfield police report.

The lawsuit names Clement Manor Inc., two Franciscan sisters communities and Cincinnati-based insurance companies in the death of 87-year-old Sylvia Ploszay on Feb. 15.

Ploszay was a resident of a 101-unit independent living building at 9405 W. Howard Ave. that is part of Clement Manor, which also has assisted-living units and a nursing home.

The independent apartments have cords to pull to summon help in emergencies, and Ploszay pulled hers at 12:25 a.m. on Feb. 15. A nursing supervisor and a nursing assistant finally arrived at the apartment at 4:34 a.m., according to the lawsuit, and found her dead in her bathroom.

The Milwaukee County medical examiners office found that shed experienced a cut in a varicose vein and had died of loss of blood. The Greenfield police report indicates shed had more than one case in which shed experienced bleeding in the past.

The lawsuit and police report say that a sound alarm and visual alarm went off at a nursing station in the complex and were acknowledged within a minute by someone at the station. The acknowledgment turned off the sound alarm at the station, but not a light alarm.

The suit also said a resident later heard a sound alarm in a hallway of the independent living unit and made a phone call that was answered by a nurses aide who said she was watching television. The resident, Richard Stobbe, said the woman told him shed take care of it, the lawsuit says. The lawsuit calls the woman a nurse, but shes a nurses aide, according to the police report.

The nurses aide whose job was to monitor calls in the complex's assisted living center told police she had directed the caller to contact the complex's health center and speak to a supervisor. In any case, no one followed up on the call and the aide went back to watching TV, the lawsuit says.

The suit also said the facility was short-staffed that night.

Greenfield police conducted an extensive investigation of the death and presented it to the Milwaukee County district attorneys office, which decided not to issue charges.

Stephanie Smiley, spokeswoman for the states Department of Health Services, said the departments Division of Quality Assurance, which regulates nursing homes and assisted living facilities, did not get involved in this case because it doesn't oversee independent living apartments.

But she said the division has investigated only three complaints against the nursing home and assisted living facility since 2005, and no citations were issued as a result.

It appears to be a facility where they follow state codes and regulations, she said.

Dennis Ferger, administrator of Clement Manor, said he couldnt comment on the lawsuit, but he said the complex in March changed the procedure for independent living residents to report emergencies.

Now, according to Ferger and the Greenfield police report, when residents pull the alarm cord, it goes straight to a private alarm company, which notifies the Greenfield emergency dispatchers, who dispatch firefighters to the complex.

Ferger referred questions about the lawsuit to the local representative of the Cincinnati Insurance Co., who did not return a phone call.

Jeff Pitman, the attorney who filed the suit on behalf of Ploszays estate, said he handled a ton of nursing home stuff, but had never sued Clement Manor before.

But he wasn't handing out praise in this case.

This was a callous disregard for this womans safety and her life, he said. Their choice not to respond to this alarm led to her death.

Ferger said Clement Manor is an independent, religious-affiliated corporation, with sponsorship from the School Sisters of St. Francis, one of the groups named in the lawsuit.

Another named group, the Franciscan Sisters of St. Clare, is not involved in running Clement Manor, he said.

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