ROCKINGHAM — The owners of a Richmond County nursing home plagued by regulatory difficulties must pay $1.4 million to the family of a former resident who died as the result of poor care.
Sandra D. and William J. Snipes filed suit in Richmond County Superior Court in 2014, alleging that the care Sandra Snipes received at Richmond Pines Health Care and Rehabilitation Center directly led to “significant pain, permanent injury” and repeated bouts of pneumonia. Snipes died of pneumonia in April 2015, and the lawsuit was refiled on behalf of her estate.
“The allegations in this case were particularly egregious,” family attorney Kyle Nutt said Thursday. “They caused her to pass away from pneumonia by making her bedridden.” Nutt is a lawyer with Shipman and Wright Law Offices in Wilmington.
Specifically, the lawsuit alleged, caregivers during Snipes’s weekslong stay at Richmond Pines in 2011 continued to administer blood-thinning medication 22 times after they had been given orders not to. As a result of that and a fall, Nutt said, Snipes suffered “a near-fatal bleed” that sent her to the emergency room “at the family’s insistence.”
Left bedbound and under siege by constant bouts of pneumonia, Snipes died in April 2015.
Earlier this month, attorneys for the owners of Richmond Pines — Britthaven, Inc.; Principle Long-Term Care, Inc.; and Spruce LTC Group — and physician Dr. Fred McQueen Jr. offered the Snipes estate $1.4 million to settle their claim.
McQueen, the lawsuit says, “was acting in the course and scope of his duties (as) an agent and employee of Britthaven at all times relevant to this complaint.”
The family agreed to the settlement on Oct. 16. The court certified the offer on Oct. 17, closing the case.
Nutt said Thursday that all claims against Dr. McQueen had been “resolved confidentially” and dismissed.
Sandra Snipes was admitted to Richmond Pines in April 2011, after a fall and resulting hip replacement. She was 61, had been ambulatory before the accident and was scheduled to receive therapy so she could walk again.
Written orders from her surgeon stipulated that Snipes was to receive a blood thinner until markers in her blood reached a certain level. They did, but the shots continued, and no employees sought to determine whether a blood test had been performed or was due, according to the lawsuit.
Even when employees dropped Snipes helping her back to bed after physiotherapy, they informed no superior and never noted the fall in her records.
After the incident, Snipes’s family members began to see a decline in Snipes’s health, as well as bruising. By the end of April 2011, Snipes could hardly speak and did not eat.
In May, nursing staff ignored repeated demands by the family that Snipes be taken to the emergency room. One theorized that Snipes was merely “depressed” and not ill.
When Snipes’s finally was taken to the ER, doctors discovered internal bleeding, serious anemia and a dislocated hip.
The admission generated another hip surgery, rehabilitation efforts at a facility other than Richmond Pines and eventual in-home care.
Family attorney Nutt said expert testimony lay responsibility for Snipes’s death at Richmond Pines’ door, even though she died four years after leaving the facility.
McQueen, who worked at Richmond Pines at the time of Snipes’ admission, has practiced family medicine in Hamlet since 1977 and is past president of the Richmond County Medical Society.
Representatives of Britthaven, Principle Long-Term Care and Spruce LTC Group could not be reached for comment Thursday.
A spokeswoman for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in Atlanta, the regional office of the federal Department of Health and Human Services that inspects nursing homes, could not immediately say whether the Snipes case has had or will have any effect on the operation of the nursing home.
Earlier this year, federal regulators from CMS forbade Richmond Pines from filing for Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements as a result of a series of infractions documented by inspectors. Nursing home owners also have racked up tens of thousands of dollars in fines as a result of those infractions.
Medicare and Medicaid are federal insurance programs that finance care for the elderly and poor, respectively.
Reach Christine Carroll at 910-817-2673.