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Bedridden man ‘rescued’ from rest home

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Propped up: A photograph showing Mr X’s leg on a flesh-coloured pillow at Sunny Vale Rest Home last May

An 81-year-old man suffering from “severe” bedsores was “rescued” by concerned members of the public from a rest home that could not care for him properly — after the National Office for Seniors and the Physically Challenged (NOSPC) failed to find him a bed elsewhere.

Mr X, who has dementia and has had a stroke, developed the painful ulcers while a resident at Sunny Vale Rest Home in Paget and is now at a facility that provides nursing services.

A relative and other individuals who became aware of his plight claim the elderly Bermudian was neglected there, resulting in the sores on his hips and the base of his spine.

An independent expert, who viewed photographs of the pressure sores at the request of The Royal Gazette, described them as “essentially as bad as it gets” — rating them a grade four, the worst type, under the European Pressure Ulcer Advisory Council scale.

“There are few excuses for a pressure area developing in a care environment,” said the senior nurse, who has no connection to the case and spoke on condition of anonymity. “The sores can develop really quickly, in less than an hour. Red skin is the first stage.

“Positional changes [are key]. The problem would have been that once he had all three of these, where would you put him?”

The owner of Sunny Vale strongly denies the allegation of neglect and insists that she informed the NOSPC that her home was unable to give Mr X the care that he needed months before he was moved.

Sunny Vale is registered as a rest home, so is not required to provide nursing services, unlike a nursing home.

“We done our best for him,” said Dorrie Bennett, a nursing assistant, who owns the St Michael’s Road facility. “The National Office agreed that he needs to be in a nursing home, but I felt that they could have done a little bit more to help me. Nobody helped me.”

The bedridden man, whose identity cannot be revealed for legal reasons, suffered from pressure sores for at least ten months before he was removed from the home, according to two confidential “problem reports” obtained by this newspaper. The documents reveal that district nurse Dianne Gornall visited Mr X at Sunny Vale on July 5, 2013, when she observed sores on his hips that were one inch in diameter, but was “unable to obtain a nursing history from the caregivers” at the home.

She and health visitor Diane Gledhill were sent by the NOSPC to visit him again at Sunny Vale on April 7, 2014 and recommended afterwards that he be moved to a nursing home “as soon as possible to receive the continuous care that he requires”.

Yet Mr X remained at Sunny Vale for another month until members of the public intervened.

Ms Gornall and Ms Gledhill noted in their April 7, 2014 report that he had three bedsores. The largest, on his right hip, was three inches in diameter and was described by our overseas expert as “likely infected and necrotic [containing dead or dying skin]”.

The health visitor and district nurse wrote that the man’s bed was “very hard and unsuitable”. They complained that there was “poor record-keeping” in relation to the man’s wounds and recommended an immediate change of mattress.

“I spoke to Ms Bennett, the proprietor, on the telephone before leaving,” Ms Gledhill wrote. “She reported that she had another mattress that may be more suitable, but it is currently in use by another resident.

“I expressed concern that another resident would be deprived of this mattress if it were transferred to [Mr X].”

The health visitor and nurse visited Mr X again a week later, on April 14, reporting that “the mattress had been changed; however, this was ineffective as cells were broken and it wasn’t plugged in”.

They wrote after that visit: “The Sunny Vale Rest Home is not equipped to deal with the level of nursing care that [the senior] requires.”

Although they arranged a meeting a day later to discuss “next steps” with John Payne, the NOSPC manager and Senior Abuse Registrar who has since retired, the man was not moved.

On May 5, a member of the public who had been told about Mr X met with NOSPC staff and made a complaint of alleged neglect.

Ms Y, who asked not to be identified, said: “The NOSPC personnel I met with didn’t appear to react positively to my concerns about [Mr X].

“Later that day, I had an appointment about another matter with the BPS [Bermuda Police Service] and because I was extremely concerned about [Mr X’s] physical condition, I reported his condition to the BPS, who contacted the NOSPC.”

Ms Y said an officer later informed her that Mr Payne told police that he had been in touch with the patient’s general practitioner, who saw no reason for the senior to be moved.

No further police action was taken and Mrs Bennett confirmed she was never interviewed by the police. On May 6, the pensioner was moved by ambulance to a nursing home. According to Ms Y, it was done “with the active consent of the receiving nursing home and his next of kin, who was distressed about his situation but did not know what to do about it”.

Ms Y added: “The bedsores were going right through to the bone on his hip. We took the decision that this man must be rescued.

“We provided an ambulance and we took the man. We assisted a suffering elderly person because he didn’t get any assistance from the National Office.

“The admitting physician [at the nursing home where he was taken] said he was ... in need of immediate nursing care.

“Three days later I went back to see him and walked past him because I didn’t recognise him. He looked so different. He is still there and he is getting good nursing care.

“They are continuing to dress his wounds but it looks as though getting them to heal will be a difficult task. He should never have been in that situation.”

Derrick Burgess, the Shadow Minister for Seniors, alerted Health Minister Jeanne Atherden to the case, sharing with her photographs of the man and his wounds, and said that he was amazed that she did not order an immediate inquiry into the care at Sunny Vale and into the NOSPC’s inaction.

“The National Office said everything was fine,” he said. “No type of action was taken against the particular home.

“They [the NOSPC] are not doing their jobs. Everybody is just passing the buck. I just think maybe people are lazy, [but] you are getting paid to do a job. It seems like because someone is elderly, certain things are not taken seriously.”

Mrs Bennett said the NOSPC conducted an investigation, which she fully complied with, and the matter was concluded without any action being taken against Sunny Vale.

“The care [here] is outstanding,” she insisted. “My home is running in a good way. It’s a clean home. It is kept well. I think someone is being malicious.”

According to the Ministry of Health, allegations of elder abuse, including neglect, must be made to the NOSPC after which the Island’s Senior Abuse Registrar then has a duty to “cause an investigation to be carried out”.

The Royal Gazette asked if Mr Payne initiated an investigation into the alleged abuse of Mr X at Sunny Vale, but a spokeswoman said: “We cannot disclose any information on individual cases to a third party due to confidentiality restrictions.”

The bedsore on the base of Mr X’s spine last April
The bedsore on Mr X’s right hip last April
The bedsore on Mr X’s left hip last April
Sunny Vale Rest Home