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Family claims neglect at Las Vegas nursing home

Posted at 2:18 PM, Oct 06, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-06 17:59:18-04

It's tough to trust outsiders to care of vulnerable family members. 

13 Action News Chief Investigator Darcy Spears spoke to a family who now has broken trust after they claim their mother, Margaret Newbury, was neglected to death in a facility that was supposed to help her heal.

Newbury's sons and daughters would like to remember their 80-year-old mother smiling and joking at family gatherings. 

Even after an operation to have a tracheal tube inserted, Margaret managed a smile. but that's when she was still at the hospital. it's what happened in the 41 days afterward that haunts her family.

"To this day it haunts me. What she went through haunts me," Margaret's son Joseph Newbury said. 

"I was just really outraged that a medical facility would not do their job," Margaret's daughter Margaret Markey said.

The medical facility they're talking about is College Park Rehabilitation Center, a skilled nursing facility on East Cheyenne, where Margaret was sent after surgery in January of 2016.

"She was good to go. She wasn't going to be dancing on Friday night but she was definitely better," Margaret's daughter Sara Heneghan said.

Her family was realistic but optimistic that they'd have more time, more smiles with mom.

"I just put my faith in the system which I will never do again," Joseph said. 

Newbury and his siblings lost their faith because of what they say happened at College Park. The family filed a civil lawsuit claiming wrongful death and elder abuse after Margaret passed away from septic shock due to a urinary tract infection.

Court records showed when Mrs. Newbury finally made it to the hospital, it was because the daughter who shares her name became her voice.

The family's civil suit claims by the time Margaret got to the Desert Springs emergency room, she was in septic shock and suffering from "multiple infections, dehydration and organ failure."

"Their mother went to this facility to be rehabilitated, to be made better," family attorney Neal Hyman said.   

His complaint alleges "conscious disregard for safety, life, and health... lack of hygiene and nutrition, excess bedsores, withholding medication, falsifying medical records, failure to transfer the patient to the hospital on numerous occasions when her health and ultimately her life depended on it and failure to notify doctors and family of conditions."

Court records showed the bill for Margaret's month and a half stay at College Park was $35,500.

Desert Springs medical records document "very poor hygiene" and say Margaret arrived at the hospital "malnourished and dehydrated" with feces on her feeding tube. 

Elder protective services were called in and substantiated the allegation of neglect, although a further investigation by the State Department of Health and Human Services was unable to substantiate the same allegation.

In court records, College Park denied any negligence or improper treatment, Saying It "used reasonable care and diligence" and "acted according to its best judgment."  

Its expert witness blamed Margaret's bedsores on neglect by a prior rehabilitation hospital, and blamed her decline on "underlying diseases and other factors" Including a "terminal illness." He said even though she went to College Park for rehab, she met the criteria for hospice. 

"Any point when they didn't think they could handle it anymore they could've said to us, 'hey, she's not going to make it, let's send her to a hospice and get her ready...' but no one ever did," Joseph said. 

The family's medical expert also found something else that makes them suspicious about Margaret's care at College Park.

Court records show certified nursing assistants wrote in her medical chart that she received "specific care" during time periods she wasn't even there. They claim to have repositioned her in bed at a time when she was off site at a doctor appointment and to have given her a partial bed bath, assessed her skin as clear and that she was repositioned by two staff members, almost six hours after she was transferred to the emergency room.

"The medical records are expected to be reliable," Hyman said. 

College Park also has years of deficiencies documented in state inspections. Including unrelated violations for many things including lack of hygiene, insufficient nursing staff and residents not being turned resulting in bedsores.

The federal government's website for Medicare gives College Park two out five stars, rating it either below or much below average for staffing and quality measures.  

The Newbury family says Margaret's death has left a hole in the fabric of the family, one that will never heal.