A hospice center in Iowa has been fined $10,000 after wrongly assuming a woman died hours before she was discovered gasping inside a body bag at a funeral home, authorities said.
A nurse at the Glen Oaks Alzheimer’s Special Care Center in Urbandale determined that the 66-year-old woman had died on January 3 and that the resident was taken to a funeral home, the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals said in a report. issued on Wednesday.
The woman, who has not been publicly identified, entered hospice care on December 28 due to «senile degeneration of the brain,» the report said.
At 6 a.m. on Jan. 3, a nurse checked on the patient but found no signs of life, according to the report.
Her «mouth was open, her eyes were fixed, and there were no breath sounds,» the report says, adding that a nurse was unable to locate the woman’s pulse with her stethoscope.
The nurse placed her hand on the woman’s abdomen and «did not notice any movement,» according to the report. The nurse assumed the resident had died and notified her family member and the hospice nurse on call, according to the report.
“The hospice agreed to call the funeral home and they did,” he said.
Nearly an hour and forty minutes later, a funeral director placed the woman’s body on a gurney «inside a cloth bag and closed it,» the report says. The director left with the woman about 10 minutes later, according to the report. Shortly before 8:30 a.m., funeral home staff discovered the woman was still alive, according to the report.
“Funeral home staff unzipped the bag and observed Resident #1’s chest move and she gasped for air. The funeral home then called 911 and hospice,” the report says.
When EMS arrived, they recorded the woman’s pulse and noted that she had no eye movement and no verbal, vocal or motor response, according to the report.
The woman was taken to the emergency room. She was returned to hospice and died with her family by her side two days later, according to the state report.
The state fined the facility $10,000, the maximum amount allowed under Iowa law, according to a spokesperson for the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals.
A state subpoena dated Wednesday said the facility «failed to provide proper direction to ensure appropriate care and services were provided» and failed to ensure that she received «dignified end-of-life treatment and care.»
The executive director of the hospice center said representatives have contacted the resident’s family.
“We care deeply about our residents and remain fully committed to supporting their end-of-life care,” CEO Lisa Eastman said in a statement. “All employees receive regular training so they can better support end-of-life care and death for our residents.”