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A change in mental status is often one of the earliest signs of a serious medical problem Contact Now

Medical malpractice wrongful death lawsuit: The Village at Gleannloch Farms and hospitalists don't treat infection, cause death of 69-year-old woman

A change in mental status is often one of the earliest signs of a serious medical problem

Painter Law Firm filed a medical malpractice wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of our client yesterday against The Village at Gleannloch Farms, a licensed skilled nursing facility located in Northwest Houston, and two hospitalist physicians on its medical staff. The case is pending in the 151st District Court of Harris County, Texas, where Judge Mike Englehart is presiding. You can read the original petition here.

This sad case is about our client, who lost the love of his life, his 69-year-old wife, who lived independently with him and enjoyed an extremely active lifestyle.

In December 2018, this woman fell and fractured her sacrum. She went to an emergency room and was admitted to the hospital. An orthopedic surgeon saw her and recommended supportive care, pain control, and therapy. She was discharged from the hospital to The Village at Gleannloch Farms for therapy and pain control until she would be ready to return home.

When she arrived at The Village, a nurse assessed her and noted that she was alert, completely oriented, and responsive to all questions that the nurse asked. She only complained of a pain level of 3/10. The nurse noted that the results of a head-to-toe assessment and vital signs were normal. The next day, the first of two hospitalist doctors saw her and noted that everything was fine.

By the next day, things started going in the wrong direction. The nursing staff found that the woman had a very poor appetite but didn’t tell the physician about it. The hospitalist ordered a fentanyl patch, even though this powerful pain medication is used to treat higher pain levels than the ones that this patient was experiencing.

Two days later, the hospitalist assessed this patient and observed new abdominal pain with nausea and vomiting. By that evening, the nursing staff documented that she was confused and agitated, experiencing breakthrough pain, and requiring assistance with all activities of daily living. These types of findings are important because it’s well-known that a change in mental status is often one of the first signs that something serious is wrong. Yet, the nursing staff didn’t pick up the phone to notify a doctor.

Over the next several days, the medical records reflect that things continued to get worse. The patient’s mental status deteriorated to the point that she started expressing suicidal thoughts. Her husband told healthcare providers that she had never done anything like that before and that he felt that it could be related to a fentanyl overdose. Despite these concerning emergency findings, the medical records don’t contain any assessment by a psychologist, psychiatrist, or mental health professional.

On a later date, she was hallucinating, screaming and yelling, refusing to eat, and didn’t know where she was, but the nurses didn’t bother to notify a doctor of these concerning findings. Also during this time interval, a second hospitalist became involved with this patient’s care. Both hospitalists showed no interest or efforts to try to figure out the source of her abdominal pain, elevated white blood cell count, and malnutrition, even though all of the signs were consistent with a serious infection.

Even after some routine blood work revealed a bacterial infection, the doctors didn’t order additional testing to work up the cause of it, and the nurses didn’t advocate for any care for their deteriorating patient.

On day 13 of her admission to The Village at Gleannloch Farms, a nurse collected a urine sample because of the patient’s increased confusion. Later that evening, a nurse noted that she was lethargic and confused and refused dinner. Incredibly, the nurse noted that she had counseled the patient’s husband on how a urinary tract infection can cause confusion, but didn’t actually notify the physician about the patient’s status.

By the next day, this woman’s blood pressure plummeted to 91/76, on top of her long-standing altered mental status and confusion that developed during her admission to The Village. At that point, the second hospitalist asked for 911 to transfer the patient to Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital by ambulance.

Upon arrival at the hospital, the patient’s husband reported that his wife’s condition had been steadily declining for two weeks and that he believed that she had an untreated urinary tract infection. The emergency room doctor diagnosed her with septic shock, acute cystitis without hematuria (urinary tract infection without bleeding) acute renal failure, metabolic acidosis, and acute respiratory failure with hypoxia (low oxygen levels).

As part of our thorough review of this case, we hired a board-certified hospitalist and a rehabilitation nurse to study the medical records. These experienced and well-qualified experts shared their opinions on how both the nursing staff and both hospitalists neglected this patient by failing to investigate and treat her declining clinical status, which began with her altered mental status.

The experts believe that it all goes back to an undiagnosed and treated urinary tract infection that the patient developed at The Village, which the doctors and nurses allowed to grow and spread until the patient became septic. Sepsis is a systemic inflammatory process that can quickly become deadly when it’s left untreated, damaging vital organs and causing respiratory failure.

Sadly, this active, healthy woman died one month after being admitted to The Village for rehab and nursing care related to a fall.

After hearing the strong criticisms of our medical and nursing experts, I’m of the opinion that this woman would have been better off going home for outpatient therapy. That way, her loving and concerned husband could have taken her to the emergency room if he felt that her condition was deteriorating. Instead, he placed his trust in the nurses and doctors at The Village, expecting that they were fulfilling their duties under the standard of care. Because of their mistakes at many points along the way, our experts believe, this woman died.

If you’ve been seriously injured because of poor care at a skilled nursing facility, nursing home, or rehabilitation facility, then contact a top-rated, experienced Houston, Texas medical malpractice lawyer for help in evaluating your potential case.

Robert Painter is an award-winning medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm PLLC, in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits all over Texas. Contact him by calling 281-580-8800 or emailing him right now.

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