Regional News in Review - August 2013

Actor helps veteran build home

Academy Award-nominated actor Gary Sinise was in Minneapolis in early August to help a Twin Cities wounded veteran raise money to build a new home.

Sinise is best known for playing Lieutenant Dan in “Forrest Gump.” The role of the title character’s disabled Vietnam veteran friend earned Sinise an Oscar nomination in 1994. Sinise has been an active supporter of the U.S. military and operates a foundation.

Corporal Mark Litynski, who lost both of his legs and an arm in an IED blast when he was 23 years old, was the focus of the fundraising efforts. The goal is to build him and his family a “smart home,” with features so that they can all live more independently.

“We want to do everything we can to make sure he and his wife Heather have the specially-designed home so they can have a happy life,” Sinise said. “Obviously if you lose both your legs and an arm you’re going to have some special challenges.” (Source: KARE-11 News)


Halfway house loses bid to expand

A North Mankato halfway house for recovering alcoholics won’t be allowed to increase its maximum occupancy from six to eight. The North Mankato City Council voted 3-2 against Belle House expansion. It was the third vote on the matter in a year. Six female residents of the house filed a petition with the city, although their attorney did the presentation. The residents said the expansion needs to be allowed under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

The expansion advocates had asked one council member to recuse himself after he brought up last year’s denial of the request. But the North Mankato city attorney said that would set a bad precedent and ask council members to set aside previous opinions.

Proponents argued that expansion would be a benefit, as more residents could provide each other moral support in their efforts toward sobriety. Another issue raised was the financial viability of Bell House and how that would be affected by expansion. But city officials countered that the expansion would be a fundamental change to North Mankato’s zoning regulations. (Source: Mankato Free Press)


Home cited in resident’s death

Fairview University Transitional Services, a Minneapolis nursing home, has been cited in the January death of a resident. Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) found that the home’s staff failed to ensure that anticoagulant medication was administered to a resident. The man went into cardiac arrest and died. The state investigation was released last month.

The nursing home is disputing the state findings, calling the incident an isolated event. MDH found that the nursing home was neglectful and that the “the facility’s policies and procedures did not provide an effective system of reviewing all medical information pertaining to treatment of the resident.”

The patient was supposed to have the drug heparin but staff members assumed other staff members were providing the drug. As a result the resident didn’t receive the correct medication. Regulators have issued correction orders, which the facility met, including reminding caregivers of who is responsible for entering medication orders and acting on them. (Source: Star Tribune)


Man sentenced for thefts

A Coon Rapids man accused of stealing prosthetics and related supplies from the University of Minnesota Medical Center in Minneapolis was sentenced recently in federal court. Peter Stasica Jr., 52, was sentenced to two years’ probation. He had stolen the items and sold many online, including on the auction site eBay. More than 60 items were sold on eBay.

Stasica pleaded guilty to wire fraud. He must pay more than $88,000 in restitution and perform 100 hours of community service. Fellow employees raised suspicions about Stasica. In one instance, a Fairview Health Services employee told investigators that Stasica interrupted a consultation with a patient and recommended a new prosthesis, which was odd be-cause the patient already had a top model. The employee recorded the leg’s serial number. It was later found to have sold on eBay for $4,561 to a buyer in Alabama.

Stasica’s duties included buying supplies and equipment, working with vendors and advising patients about whether a new prosthetic limb was necessary. He was fired in the wake of the charge against him. He worked for the hospital’s owner, Fairview Health Services, since 1994. He also was the secretary of the Minnesota Society of Orthotists, Prosthetists and Pedorthists, a nonprofit industry group that promotes ethical standards. (Source: Star Tribune)


Stolen bike brings support

A young Minneapolis man with special needs volunteers his time to keep others safe by patrolling area walking paths on a specially designed bike. When the bike was stolen last month community members worked to help him replace it. Joe Toth had worked odd jobs for two years to earn the $1,400 needed to buy and outfit his bike. It had lights and sirens.

Joe Toth always wanted to be a police officer. He is developmentally disabled and had to find a new way to pursue his lifelong dream. He instead became a one-man safety patrol. He is a welcome sight to walkers, joggers and bikers and is equipped with first aid items to help injured outdoor enthusiasts. He also provides path directions.

The loss of the bike was devastating for the Toth family but they were delighted days later to get a generous donation toward its replacement. As of Access Press deadline the bike hadn’t been found. (Source: KSTP-TV)


Neglect found at nursing home

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has reported findings of neglect at a Cold Spring nursing home. The investigation at Assumption Home followed the death of a resident. The resident died of asphyxiation after the person’s neck became lodged between a bed mattress and a bed rail. In July MDH determined that the nursing home should be cited for neglect. There was no evidence that the home assessed the risks versus benefits of using a bed rail, sometimes called a grab bar. “Nursing homes are entrusted with the care of vulnerable adults and a death like this is totally unacceptable,” said Commissioner of Health Ed Ehlinger in a statement. “As a result of this death, we want all health settings where bed rails are used to take immediate steps to make sure they are following the correct guidelines around bed rails, grab bars and other devices.”

There is a strangulation risks associated with some bed rails and the individual requiring them. Healthcare providers are required to assess whether the potential benefits of their use outweigh the dangers. State and federal guidelines require all places where bed rails are used to be individually assessed and evaluated for certain patients, such as those with dementia. MDH could find no evidence that Assumption Home completed the required assessment for bed rails.

Assumption reported the incident to the MDH Office of Health Facility Complaints, which investigates suspected violations of the Minnesota Vulnerable Adult Protection Act. To return to compliance, the facility put together a corrective plan that was implemented and confirmed by an MDH site visit. The resident who died had dementia, impaired mobility, chronic pain, and a history of falls out of wheelchairs and beds. The name wasn’t released. (Source: St. Cloud Times)

 

 

Human services probe examined

The Minnesota Department of Human Services is now scrutinizing what is being described as a “rogue investigation” involving three high-ranking state psychiatrists. Some see the incidents as part of a breakdown in management in the state’s mental health system. The incident was investigated by the Star Tribune newspaper, which has been closely following ongoing controversies among state psychiatrists and raising concerns about what that means for patient care.

The latest incident began with a psychiatrist secretly monitoring one of her superiors at a top state officer’s request. It then grew into an unauthorized outside investigation.

Dr. Suzanne Witterholt, a psychiatrist at the state’s regional treatment center in Anoka, alleged that she was instructed last summer to covertly monitor the activities of Dr. Steven Pratt, medical director at the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter. Witterholt said the order to do so was from the state’s top medical officer, Dr. Alan Radke.

After Witterholt’s inquiries triggered staff complaints in St. Peter and came to Pratt’s attention, he filed a formal complaint with his superiors, who then hired an outside investigator without telling the agency’s commissioner or her deputy.

Top DHS officials were unaware of the chain of events until the Star Tribune newspaper raised questions. Deputy Human Services Commissioner Anne Barry said that the incident is an example of senior managers failing to put patient care first. She told the newspaper that she will redouble her efforts to change the workplace culture in the agency’s mental health division.

Radke submitted his resignation last week, effective in October, as he is leaving for a position in Hawaii. He is the fourth top mental-health administrator to leave the department since 2010. (Source: Star Tribune)