A Fresno community activist has sued a Clovis nursing home, saying her mother was a victim of elder abuse and medical negligence before she died last year at age 88.
Gail Gaston’s lawyers filed the wrongful-death lawsuit in Fresno County Superior Court against Willow Creek Heathcare Center on behalf of the estate of Josephine Mino, who died March 31, 2014, of respiratory failure and pneumonia.
The lawsuit says Mino was under the care of Willow Creek at 650 W. Alluvial Ave. from March 17 to March 31, 2014 and that her condition worsened during the course of her stay, resulting “in her untimely death due to sepsis and cardiac arrest.”
The lawsuit also alleges that Willow Creek staff kept inaccurate or incomplete records of Mino’s treatment.
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Efforts to speak with Willow Creek administrators were unsuccessful Tuesday.
This is not the first time the operators of Willow Creek nursing home have been accused of misconduct. In 2010, a judge approved a nearly $63 million settlement agreement after a Humboldt County Superior Court jury awarded former and current patients of Skilled Healthcare Group Inc. $677 million in damages after a yearlong trial that accused the Foothill Ranch-based company of putting elderly residents at risk and skirting state law by skimping on staff to make more money.
Skilled Healthcare Group Inc., which operates Willow Creek Healthcare Center in Clovis and Valley Healthcare Center in Fresno, agreed to the settlement, saying it would have faced bankruptcy if it was forced to pay the larger verdict.
Gaston, 60, is one of the organizers of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. annual celebration in Fresno. Her family recently celebrated the opening of a new southwest Fresno public school named in honor of late patriarch Rutherford “Bud” Gaston, the first black principal in the Fresno Unified School District and a well-known civic leader.
“The Gaston family agonized over the decision to pursue this action,” said Fresno attorney Kevin Little, one of two lawyers representing the family. The family’s other lawyer is Michelle Tostenrude.
“In the end, however, they thought it was important to improve the quality of care for all elderly Fresnans and to put the community on notice of the deficiencies in the care provided to Ms. Mino,” Little said.
The civil lawsuit, filed March 2, only gives one side of the dispute.
It says Mino had lived by herself and used a walker in her Fresno home until she was rushed to St. Agnes Medical Center’s emergency room on March 14, 2014 after she fell. She had a laceration to the back side of her left arm, leukocytosis (an increase in the number of white cells in the blood, a sign of infection) and early stages of pneumonia, the lawsuit says.
In addition, her heart rate was irregular.
At St. Agnes, Mino was given antibiotics and fluids and her condition improved, the lawsuit says.
After more tests on her were conducted, the lawsuit says, a doctor recommended that Mino be placed in a nursing home in an interim basis “as she could not take care of herself and needed 24-hour care.” The goal was for Mino to recover so she could return home, the lawsuit says.
On March 17, Mino was discharged from St. Agnes and taken to Willow Creek. “Mino’s condition at the time of discharge was fair, and she had steadily improved over the course of her hospital stay,” the lawsuit says.
Upon Mino’s admission to Willow Creek, she still had pneumonia but was alert except for bouts of forgetfulness. At Willow Creek, she continued to take antibiotics for her pneumonia and other medication, including Zoloft.
Mino appeared to be recovering until March 23, when she reportedly had excessive weakness, the lawsuit says. She complained of pain in her back and appeared confused. Three days later, Mino had bed sores on her coccyx (tailbone), a red buttocks, rashes and bruises on her back, the lawsuit says.
Over the next few days, she became forgetful with bowel and bladder incontinence, and complained of abdominal pain, the lawsuit says.
On March 31, she was lethargic, slightly cold and clammy, nauseated and vomiting, and had decreased appetite. She also had fluctuating blood pressure and her urine output had decreased. She was taken by ambulance to St. Agnes, where she died shortly after her arrival to the emergency room.
Mino’s death “was not an instant onset illness,” the lawsuit says. “Had Mino received the proper care and treatment that a reasonable facility would have provided, Mino’s death would have been avoided, and she would not have had to suffer such a painful, terrifying and a prolonged day of death.”
Her death was extremely painful to the family, the lawsuit says, because Gaston and other family members could not “say their final goodbyes to their beloved matriarch.”