Nursing Home Neglect Trial Begins

posted on:
January 15, 2008

author:
Kate Braser

Whether staff at an Evansville nursing home provided appropriate care for an 86-year-old woman who ultimately died is the central question in an ongoing trial in Vanderburgh Circuit Court this week. 

Testimony Monday revealed that Morline Allen was first admitted to Brentwood Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in April 2005 with many serious medical conditions, including congestive heart failure, renal failure, diabetes and arthritis.

She died on Oct. 1, 2005, less than three hours after she was transferred from Brentwood to St. Mary’s Medical Center.

A grand jury previously indicted nine employees, but charges against five were dismissed late last week.

The remaining four – Teresa Williams, Ron Gillenwater, Elizabeth McCabe and Connie Burris – each face a Class D felony charge of neglect of a dependent.

Williams was director of nursing and a supervisor at the time. Gillenwater was a third shift supervisor. Burris and McCabe are licensed practical nurses.

As testimony in the case began Monday, the courtroom was nearly full, with onlookers mainly comprised of defense attorneys, friends, family and co-workers of the defendants.

Vanderburgh Circuit Court Magistrate David Kiely said although the defendants are on trial simultaneously, he will make individual rulings in their cases.

Glenn Grampp – one of four defense attorneys representing the nurses – said the case began April 25, 2005, when Allen became unable to care for herself and was admitted to St. Mary’s Medical Center and discharged from there to Brentwood.

While at St. Mary’s, Grampp said, Allen was diagnosed with circulatory and respiratory problems, and that over the course of her stay at Brentwood was repeatedly referred back to hospitals for treatment of her wounds and ulcers.

He said Allen had 20 wounds on her body upon admission back to Brentwood from the hospital in early September 2005.

"I think the evidence will prove that because of her physical condition she was prone to have these ulcers," he said. "She received good care from Brentwood."

ER nurse testifies

Registered nurse Amy McGill was working in the emergency room the day Allen was admitted to St. Mary’s Medical Center.

McGill said when Allen arrived, she was not breathing well on her own and was unresponsive. McGill saw Allen was dehydrated and the skin on her head was dry and flaky. She also noted Allen’s catheter was laying over her left inner thigh, and that the tube was resting on a skin indentation. She said the catheter tip was discolored.

"I had never found a catheter in that condition before," McGill said, explaining she believed it was becoming embedded.

McGill also noted the skin breakdown on Allen’s lower back and legs, as well as evidence of a recent and older bowel movements that had not been cleaned. McGill said Allen’s wounds appeared to be infected.

McGill helped transfer Allen from the emergency room to the intensive care unit, where registered nurse Vanessa Berlin was in charge of Allen’s initial assessment.

"I was very concerned about the condition of this lady’s skin when she presented to me," Berlin said, adding one marking on her leg was unlike anything she had seen before, and led her to contact Adult Protective Services to report suspicion of neglect.

Berlin said Allen was in the intensive care unit for less than an hour before she died.

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