Aide: ‘They never gave her a chance’

Doris Keller-Robbins (Courtesy photo)


WAYLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — A former nurse’s aide said she was on duty at Laurels of Sandy Creek nursing home in Wayland when Doris Keller-Robbins died — a death that led to a $101,000 state fine for the home.

“They could have potentially revived her,” said the former aide, who asked Target 8 not to be identified. “They never gave her a chance.”

“Nobody took responsibility, someone I think was on lunch, said ‘It wasn’t my responsibility,’ and the job didn’t get done and the lady died,” she said.

A state report says the 80-year-old retired state worker and former Hospice volunteer was lethargic, gurgling from fluid in her lungs, and yelled, “Help me, help me!” for hours on May 6, 2012.

“She was cognizant enough to be asking for help and there was no one that provided it,” said her daughter, Patricia Slomski.

Keller-Robbins’ doctor told the state that the home, while asking for chest X-rays and a nebulizer, never told her how bad her condition was.

By mid-afternoon, a nurse found her not breathing, with no pulse. After a few chest compressions, the nurse left her alone.

The home didn’t do CPR and didn’t call an ambulance, even though those were her written wishes.

“She wanted to live,” the former nurse’s aide said. “Her rights were violated and neglected. That’s all it is. It’s just sad. She was just straight out neglected.”

It was one of 33 deaths that led the state to issue violations to homes for failing to provide timely emergency care over the last three years, according to a Target 8 analysis of federal and state inspection reports.

“It’s so inhumane and that it’s allowed to be tolerated on any level is just mind-blowing to me,” Keller-Robbins’ daughter told Target 8.

She is left with thoughts of her mother’s lungs filling with fluid.

“Essentially, she drowned over a period of five hours,” Slomski said. “I really can’t think of a more horrible way for anyone to die.”

It led the state to issue a $101,000 fine against Laurels of Sandy Creek — the second largest fine in the state in cases involving death and the largest in West Michigan, according to the Target 8 analysis.

“We trust these places to treat our loved ones with dignity and respect, and to treat them as they’re human garbage is just unacceptable at every level, and that’s what happened to my mother,” Slomski said. “It would have been kinder if they euthanized her.”

She said the fine wasn’t nearly enough.

“I think they should have been shut down,” she said. “You don’t get to kill people. You don’t get to kill people and continue in business. No, this was just the cost of doing business. That’s what this was.”

In a written statement to Target 8, Laurels of Sandy Creek Administrator Angel Brummette addressed the home’s decision not to perform CPR, saying that the nurse “determined that the patient had clear evidence of clinical death.” The decision, it said, “followed the American Heart Association’s Guidelines for CPR and Emergency Cardiovascular Care.”

Brummette said the home has been removed from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ Special Focus Facility list.

Medicare.gov rates Laurels of Sandy Creek as below average in health inspections and in its overall performance. The state has fined it nearly $229,000 over the last three years.

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Here is the complete statement from Sandy Creek:

“The Laurels of Sandy Creek honors the privacy of its residents.  Due to our professional obligations, the information that can be shared is of a limited nature.  However, we feel it is important to share the information that we can. In May 2012, a patient at The Laurels of Sandy Creek experienced a significant cardiac event.  When the Registered Nurse completed her assessment of the patient, including taking the patient’s vitals, the nurse determined that the patient had clear evidence of clinical death.  Based on this assessment and application of nursing judgment, CPR was not initiated by the Registered Nurse.  This nurse’s response followed the American Heart Association’s Guidelines for CPR and Emergency Cardiovascular Care. Also in May 2012, the State of Michigan reviewed the facility’s actions and using the State’s interpretation of the regulations, determined that the facility should have responded differently, which resulted in significant sanctions and penalties to the facility. Subsequently, in 2013, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), our federal regulatory agency, issued guidance to State Surveyors on this same issue.  This CMS guidance was consistent with our Registered Nurse’s response to finding a deceased patient and her determination that CPR should not have been initiated.  The Laurels of Sandy Creek is and has always been committed to quality care and improvement.  Through this commitment, our facility has successfully been removed from the Special Focus Facility List that CMS maintains for all nursing facilities.”

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