Sacramento nursing home fined in patient's death

Published: Thursday, Jul. 4, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Thursday, Jul. 4, 2013 - 8:59 am

A Sacramento nursing home is responsible for the death of a patient with swallowing difficulties who choked on a piece of meat during a lunchtime outing with staff members, state regulators have concluded.

Mary Yip, 86, who suffered from dementia and disability from stroke, died a day after the choking incident in January 2012. At the time, she was accompanied by staff members and other patients of the Asian Community Center nursing home.

The nonprofit Foundation Aiding the Elderly, or FATE, filed a complaint against the facility at the request of Yip's family. The California Department of Public Health substantiated the agency's complaint and hit the nursing home with its most severe penalty, a Class AA citation, and an $80,000 fine.

In a report released Wednesday, investigators said staff members served an unnamed patient, whom FATE founder Carole Herman identified as Yip, noodles with chunks of meat during the outing.

They failed to supervise her while she ate, despite a physician's directive that she was unable to chew and should eat only soft foods, regulators said.

Three staff members and a volunteer accompanied five patients, including Yip, on the outing, according to the report. When Yip began choking, a staffer performed the Heimlich maneuver to try to dislodge food in her throat.

The maneuver failed, the report indicates, and by the time paramedics arrived Yip was in full cardiac arrest. Doctors later removed "a large piece of what appeared to be meat" from her throat.

Yip never recovered consciousness and died the next day.

Asian Community Center administrators did not return calls for comment Wednesday.

Herman, from FATE, said Yip had lived at the facility on Rush River Drive for nearly four years. She was "very compromised" by her illnesses, and "needed 24-hour care," Herman said.

In Sacramento County in recent years, only four nursing facilities have received Class AA citations.

The citations reflect a violation of state regulations that result in "a direct proximate cause of death" of a patient, according to regulators.

A second such citation within 24 months can result in the state moving to revoke a facility's license.

Despite the unusually harsh penalty it received in this case, the Asian Community Center has a relatively good track record of care, Herman said.

"It's one of the better facilities, based on the lack of complaints that my organization has received over the years," she said.

Call The Bee's Cynthia Hubert, (916) 321-1082. Follow her on Twitter @cynthia_hubert.

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