AG sues Carrollton nursing home


by By JASON TRAHAN / The Dallas Morning News

Posted on August 15, 2009 at 4:44 PM

Updated Friday, Oct 16 at 3:03 PM

A Carrollton nursing home sued for neglect by the Texas attorney general's office after a female patient died in April has passed only one inspection in eight years, state records show.

The attorney general's office also alleges that the parent company of Brookhaven Nursing Center - Diversified Healthcare LLC in Baton Rouge, La. - is not registered with the Texas secretary of state's office to do business here and owes two years worth of back franchise taxes.

The company could be fined up to $20,000 for each violation of law that threatened residents' health and safety, according to the attorney general. A lawsuit filed by the office also seeks a court order forcing the nursing home to make immediate improvements, including establishing emergency procedures that meet state law.

The name of the patient who died was not included in the lawsuit. Records show that she had heart and lung disease and a history of lower than normal oxygen levels and used an oxygen machine to help her breathe. She died April 10 during a power outage when ill-trained staff left her alone in a stifling room, without oxygen, according to the lawsuit.

The attorney general's office is not asking that Brookhaven be shut down, according to spokesman Tom Kelly. "Instead, [state regulators] will incorporate this event into their review of the relicensing when that comes up."

Laura Albrecht with the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services, which oversees nursing homes, said Brookhaven's license comes up for renewal in late October.

Doug Elliott, Brookhaven's administrator, declined to comment on the lawsuit, which was filed in a Denton County district court. The attorney general's office announced the lawsuit Monday.

Messages left for Brian May, owner of Diversified Healthcare, were not returned Monday. Tracy Hauver, listed on the company Web site as the regional manager for Brookhaven, as well as nursing homes in New Orleans and Slidell, La., could not be reached for comment.

According to its Web site, the company runs Brookhaven as well as five facilities in southern Louisiana. They serve a total of 900 residents and have 750 employees.

Court papers also did not name the nurse in charge of looking after the woman and several other Brookhaven patients who depended on oxygen machines to stay alive.

At about 3 a.m. on April 10, the nursing home lost power after a spring storm knocked out electricity to more than 175,000 North Texans.

Three hours later, a nurse went into the woman's room and saw her "thrashing around in bed." The nurse later told investigators with the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services that she thought "the resident was simply uncomfortable because the room was extremely hot," the lawsuit says.

The nurse told investigators that she did not know that the woman could not breathe and was unable to properly assess her condition "because it was too dark in the room due to the outage," according to the lawsuit.

The woman was found dead at 7 a.m. At the time, she was connected to a "powerless oxygen system," according to the lawsuit.

Investigators discovered that the facility had a backup generator and stored oxygen containers, but the nurse had not been trained for an emergency at the home.

Officials were not able to say how long the nurse had worked at the facility or how many others were on duty that night. They also would not say whether the nurse or any other Brookhaven personnel could face criminal charges in the case.

A week after the death, TDADS investigators found 23 rules violations at the nursing home, some of which put residents in "imminent jeopardy." The center was found to be providing "substandard quality of care."

State records going back eight years reveal that Brookhaven failed annual inspections each year except for 2004. In 2003 and 2006, the state found that Brookhaven's deficiencies caused "actual harm or immediate jeopardy." The other years, violations were not considered as serious, records show.