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The troubles facing the Pavillion of Forest Park Nursing Home, it appears, are not limited to the indictments on multiple felony counts of neglect served up last week by a Cook County Grand Jury.

The home is also dealing with a wrongful death civil suit brought in response to the same case by the family of the 48-year-old cancer patient who died on September 11, 2002 after allegedly arriving at Loyola Medical Center with her back covered in bedsores.

“There were bedsores that went to the bone all up and down her back and thighs…the entire backside of her was one giant bedsore,” said Attorney Thomas Gamache of the Chicago law firm Slavin and Slavin, which will be handling the case. He said that he will be able to present pictures of the wounds to back up the claims.

Gamache said the family would prefer not to be named.

Linda Flaherty, director of Risk Management for Care Centers, owners of the Pavillion, told the Review last week that the company will take a defense position against all charges.

This week, she referred the Review to Attorney Michael Siegel, who declined to comment further.

The suit, first brought in 2003, names the Pavillion of Forest Park as well Forest Park L.L.C. and Care Centers, Inc., the licensee and owner of the home. It also names Dr. Jason Garti, a former medical director at Pavillion who was also named in the indictment, and two nurses who treated the patient.

It alleges that the patient had no sores on her body upon entering the home, but developed the sores due to neglect during her time there.

The suit accuses the home of failing to implement several preventative and treatment options for the sores including failing to document the wounds, failing to reposition the patient so the wounds would not occur and failing to give the patient the medication that had been prescribed. The suit and alleges violations of the Nursing Home Care Act, the Wrongful Death Act, and the Illinois Survival Act.

The indictments, first returned by the grand jury Sept. 7, bring similar charges, stating that Care Centers and Forest Park, L.L.C. “recklessly failed to provide adequate medical care which resulted in the deterioration of the physical condition of (the patient).”

A guilty finding could result in the closure of the nursing home.

Care Centers, is owned by several members of the Rothner family, who own several nursing homes throughout the state. According to campaign disclosure records, CEO Eric Rothner has made over $28,000 in political contributions since 2000.

FP residents report similar experiences

The Illinois Department of Public Health’s web site lists just under 20 complaints about the Pavillion that have been filed so far this year. According to some Forest Park residents, though, these formal complaints do not represent all of those who have been unsatisfied with the care their loved ones received.

Francise Alexander of Forest Park said that her father, Alonzo Alexander, was admitted to the Pavillion in 2004 after having a leg amputated in 2003. She said that she visited her father on October 3, 2004 and noticed that he seemed unresponsive and kept complaining that he was cold.

She said that after noticing blood on the sheet that covered her father, her fiancé pulled the sheet back and saw that his big toenail was bleeding excessively. Her father, a diabetic, died the next day of pneumonia at Loyola Medical Center at age 72.

Alexander said she believes that negligence on the part of Pavillion’s staff led to her father’s death, as open wounds left untreated in diabetics are often fatal. She said that those who treated her father at Loyola shared her concerns.

She said her father, who also developed bedsores at the home, was often not given the medicine prescribed to him, as medicine ordered as part of his daily regime was often divided between several patients. She reported regularly encountering the smell of urine and rotting food at the home and hearing patient’s calls for treatment go unanswered by staff.

Another Forest Park resident, Eudora Beckley, said her grandmother died three days after being admitted to Pavillion in March, 2004. She said that family members who visited reported finding her grandmother’s mouth filled with fluid, and believe that she likely choked to death.

The listed cause of death was a stroke, and Beckley said the family could not afford an autopsy to verify whether this was the case. She said her grandmother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, had never suffered heart problems in the past.

Local activists say problem is systematic

Allegations of neglect in nursing homes have in the past often been blamed on understaffing and low pay. A police report filed at the Forest Park Police Department on Sept. 10 indicated that when officers responded to a call reporting a death at the home, they discovered that the floor where the man had died had only one nurse working, and that audible call alarms for treatment went unanswered.

That case was transferred to the Medical Examiners office, where a representative said the matter was still pending investigation.

Flaherty said last week that the home does not normally release figures on staffing and wages, but that the home complies with all state standards including the requirement for at least 2.5 hours of care per day per resident.

Several local activists, however, said that the state is actually a large part of the problem, and that its requirements are wildly insufficient. They called for funding to be directed towards long term care options other than institutions.

“The whole idea of using a factory mentality to providing care to people who need help…doesn’t seem to work and has a tendency to breed contempt ” unfortunately that translates to the devaluation of the old and disabled,” said Dianne Coleman of the Progress Center for Independent Living.

According to a study by the disability rights organization ADAPT, Illinois places about 80 percent of its long term care funding in nursing homes and other institutions. The study ranks Illinois as the fifth worst state in funding of treatment options for the elderly and disabled.