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Bremerton nursing home sued over resident's death

Kitsap Sun - 9/9/2017

Sept. 09--BREMERTON -- The estate of a man who died at Forest Ridge Health and Rehabilitation Center last October after wandering out of the facility unattended has sued the Bremerton nursing home.

The lawsuit, filed Aug. 30 in Kitsap Superior Court, alleges Forest Ridge was negligent in allowing Ralph Atkins, 83, to leave the building unsupervised early on the morning of Oct. 10 and failed to provide adequate care following his discharge from the hospital later in the day. Atkins died that afternoon.

Sok-Khieng Lim, the attorney representing the estate, said Atkins' next of kin weren't told he had been found lying in a parking lot prior to being hospitalized. She said Atkins' family learned the full circumstances of his death when they read a Kitsap Sun story about the incident published in June.

"They were shocked," Lim said.

The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services fined Forest Ridge$552,000 in December following an investigation by the state Department of Social and Health Services. The penalty was later dropped to $363,000.

Administrators for the Marion Avenue nursing home did not respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit. Forest Ridge is owned by FMG South Marion Ave Washington LLC, a corporation governed by FMG Operating Z LLC, itself a subsidiary of Milwaukee-based Fortis Management Group.

According to the lawsuit, Atkins suffered from Alzheimer's and other medical conditions when he was admitted to Forest Ridge in 2011. Despite experiencing cognitive impairments, hallucinations and delusions, he was not flagged as a resident at risk for leaving the facility and was allowed to move freely within the building.

Forest Ridge staff saw Atkins near the front door of the facility after midnight on Oct. 10 and later noticed he had disappeared but did not check his room. At about 2:25 a.m. he was discovered lying in the parking lot with his head propped against a curb.

Atkins was taken to Harrison Medical Center at about 3 a.m. According to the lawsuit, he told hospital staff that he had gone outside, become very cold and laid down, adding that he "occasionally wandered off like this." Harrison discharged Atkins back to Forest Ridge in stable condition, directing the nursing home to monitor his health.

Atkins later displayed respiratory problems and low blood oxygen levels. He died at 2 p.m. The lawsuit claims Forest Ridge staff failed to recognize and properly treat his conditions, which "caused and/or contributed to his death."

Lim said Atkins' family was notified early in the afternoon of Oct. 10 that his health was declining. By the time they arrived at the nursing home Atkins had died, his body had been removed from the facility and many of his belongings were missing, Lim said.

The lawsuit against Forest Ridge comes at a time when the nursing home's corporate parent is in financial turmoil.

Fortis Management Group was formed to manage long-term care facilities sold by Extendicare to investment groups in 2015. It operates 65 nursing homes in six states, including Forest Ridge and Bremerton Health and Rehabilitation.

In July, landlords who own properties leased by Fortis petitioned a Wisconsin court to appoint a receiver to oversee the company's operations, claiming that Fortis failed to pay millions of dollars in rent.

A receiver was appointed in July. The nursing homes will eventually be turned over to new operators, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

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(c)2017 the KitsapSun (Bremerton, Wash.)

Visit the KitsapSun (Bremerton, Wash.) at www.kitsapsun.com

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