The family of an 81-year-old man whose death in early April was attributed partly to COVID-19 has sued the Bridgeview nursing home where he had been living.
The wrongful death complaint, filed Wednesday in Cook County Circuit Court on behalf of James Zbonski, alleges gross negligence on the part of administrators and staff at Bridgeview Health Care Center, 8100 S. Harlem Ave.
The Burbank man died April 6 at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, with his death attributed to COVID-19 along with acute respiratory failure and pneumonia, according to the lawsuit, which seeks damages in excess of $50,000.
In a statement Friday, Martha Peck, administrator of Bridgeview Health Care, said it had received a copy of the lawsuit and is reviewing the allegations, but could not comment on the specifics.
“Once the facts come out in court, we are confident they will show the tireless work we have put into keeping our vulnerable resident population safe from this pandemic,” Peck said.
The facility reported 34 cases of the virus and 15 deaths connected to COVID-19 to state officials as of May 29, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
The lawsuit alleges the rehab center failed to monitor patients and staff for symptoms of the virus, and didn’t properly isolate patients who showed symptoms.
The lawsuit alleges that Zbonski’s roommate at the health care center had exhibited symptoms of the virus and died just days before Zbonski. The complaint was filed by the Chicago firm Levin & Perconti, which concentrates its practice, among other areas, on nursing home abuse and neglect.
Zbonski’s death was a “byproduct of years, if not decades, of the nursing home’s mismanagement, misallocation of resources and understaffing,” the complaint alleges.
The family says that although facility administrators were aware that residents and staff were either symptomatic or had tested positive for the virus, staff lacked necessary protective equipment.
Figures released Thursday by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services show that more than 7,000 workers in long-term care facilities in Illinois have likely been infected with the virus, and many facilities reporting they are running low on protective gear.
Of Illinois facilities reporting to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, 23% said they were short on nursing staff and 27% said they were short on aides.
As of the end of last month, the state’s long-term care facilities, which include traditional nursing homes and assisted living centers, had reported a cumulative 2,700 deaths related to COVID-19, which includes fatalities among patients and staff but doesn’t specify the number of each, according to the state health department.
Zbonski’s family notes, and state records confirm, that Bridgeview Health Care has been cited numerous times in recent years by state health officials for not properly disinfecting medical equipment and not developing and implementing infection control measures.
In a mid-April, a COVID-19 facility review by Medicare and Medicaid inspectors found that the center “failed to follow practices to contain the spread of COVID-19 by proper use of personal protective equipment and proper handling of clean and soiled linen.”
Bridgeview Health Care “did not exercise reasonable and due care and the level of diligence and competence required of a long-term skilled nursing care facility” in the treatment of patients, and failed to implement infection control and prevention measures in violation of the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act, according to the complaint.
Source: CHICAGO TRIBUNE