A Florida nursing home is under investigation after the death of a man in a wheelchair who was left in the sun, where he suffered second-degree burns, blistering and symptoms of dehydration.
Police in Pinellas Park said 65-year-old Wilbert Henry Moten, who was immobile, spent hours outdoors on Saturday when temperatures rose into the 90s on a humid day. He died later after reportedly suffering heart failure, police said. An autopsy was underway Monday.
The state Department of Children and Families said in a statement Tuesday that it has opened a death investigation. And Shelisha Coleman, spokeswoman for the Agency for Health Care Administration, said it’s also looking into the death.
A woman staffing the front desk of GraceWood Rehabilitation and Nursing Care said Tuesday that the facility would not comment.
GraceWood has been on the state’s “watch list” since November of 2013, which means the facility “did not meet, or correct upon follow-up, minimum standards at the time of an inspection.”
Moten had no living relatives, suffered from mobility issues and psychiatric problems and had been in the facility’s care for years, according to the state-appointed professional who advocated for his care.
Moten’s health-care proxy — which is like a guardian but for indigent patients — said no one from GraceWood Rehabilitation and Nursing Care called him when Moten died. Instead, Fernando Gutierrez said he was notified by the hospital.
“Why was he was outside? He was in a wheelchair,” said Gutierrez. “How he got out there and why he got out there is a mystery.”
Gutierrez said that he was supposed to be notified if one of his patients went to the hospital. Now, he’s removing 10 other patients of his from the facility and finding new homes for them.
“I treat my patients like they’re my own family members,” he said. “I lost trust. I have to pull them out.”
Pinellas Park police say they’re looking into whether abuse was involved.
According to a police news release, “detectives are still looking to identify all of the staff members that would have been at GraceWood Saturday and what, if any, role did the nursing home staff play in this case.”
State records show GraceWood has been fined at least three times since late 2012 over the care of its residents.
Online records of the Agency for Healthcare Administration show the facility settled with that state agency for $2,500 regarding allegations of unsafe use of mechanical wheelchair lifts. In June 2014, records show a 93-year-old fell from a lift while being moved. The resident hit a shower chair and died a few days later. Also in 2014, it was alleged that an 80-year-old resident fell from a wheelchair lift during a transfer, requiring two staples to the back of the head.
GraceWood did not contest allegations in 2012 of failing to assess a resident’s untreated leg fractures, failing to tell his doctor about his symptoms and failing to report his claim of abuse.
This year, according to documents, the facility didn’t contest allegations that it failed to appropriately address its residents’ dental needs. Two residents in the complaint had broken and decaying teeth, yet facility records showed no scheduled dental care.