- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 6, 2003

A 70-year-old man bled to death in a Northwest nursing home this week after trying to signal a nurse with an emergency call button that didn't work, according to a law enforcement official who investigated the incident.
Herman Thomas of the District was found dead in his room at the Rock Creek Manor Nursing Center about 9:35 p.m. Monday. A tube in his arm apparently became dislodged and allowed him to bleed to death, nursing center and law enforcement officials said.
"When detectives checked the call button, it didn't even work," said a police source who was called to the scene, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
The police source said the pattern of blood splattered around the bed suggests Mr. Thomas had "thrashed around" and was unable to reach the call button when the tube slipped out of his arm.
Betty Lineberger, director of admissions at Rock Creek Manor, a private nursing center, disputed that account. "Our call system is working. … His call button was right there and reachable," she said.
D.C. police spokesman Tony O'Leary confirmed that officers responded to a call at the nursing home Monday night but said the cause of Mr. Thomas' death remains "undetermined pending autopsy and a further investigation."
Police cannot officially comment on an investigation that is under way, he said.
Mr. Thomas apparently struggled to reach the call button, designed to signal a hallway nursing station. The tube in his arm had been implanted to facilitate dialysis treatment.
Mrs. Lineberger said each of the beds at the nursing center is equipped with a call button. "They're checked during each shift and during weekly ground rounds," she said.
Asked if Mr. Thomas had used the call button to notify a nurse that he was bleeding, Mrs. Lineberger said: "I don't know. I don't want to make a statement if he called or he did not call. It was working, and that's my statement. We've checked everything."
A Rock Creek Manor resident receives about 1.7 hours per day of nursing services, compared with the 4.2-hours-per-day average for nursing homes District-wide, according to a November 2001 survey conducted by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
CMS is a federal agency under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that monitors facilities receiving Medicare or Medicaid payments. The agency notes that 97 percent of Rock Creek Manor's 180 beds are occupied. Rock Creek Manor's 174 residents number 40 more than the average at D.C. nursing homes and 86 more than the national average.
The CMS survey "is a strong indicator that [Rock Creek Manor officials] may have a staffing issue and there weren't enough people there to answer a call button," said Dennis Steele, director of memberofthefamily.net, a nonprofit group that posts statistics on the Internet about nursing homes.
Mrs. Lineberger discounted Mr. Steele's assessment, saying Rock Creek Manor meets the staffing standards to be certified by the federal and D.C. governments. "Rock Creek is way within the standards set by Medicare and Medicaid," she said.

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