Died in vain; no dignity for Alfie

Alfred Vincent (File photo)

Tuesday on 24 Hour News 8 at 6, a Target 8 investigation reveals state fines that left the families of victims shaking their heads.

HASTINGS, Mich. (WOOD) – Alfred Vincent is surrounded by strangers under an oak tree at the very back of a Hastings cemetery.

No family, just as in life.

His medical guardian says he is there before his time only because of the nursing home that neglected him to death.

“People like Alfie don’t come around every day and it’s really easy to push him aside because he had no family, nobody to stand up for him,” Melinda Pepper said.

Vincent was a mentally impaired 77-year-old man well known in Hastings as the best cleaner of Barry County’s transit buses. He hung out at McDonald’s and at the Wal-Mart in town. But he had broken his hip, which is why he was at MagnumCare of Hastings. He was supposed to stay for a month.

Pepper said she had complained to nurses about his care.

“I would ask them why he smelled strong of urine, and they didn’t always have a very good answer for me,” she said.

In January 2013, MagnumCare called for an ambulance after finding him slumped in his wheelchair, but, records show, the home sent another patient in the ambulance instead.

More than seven hours later, after she got out of work, his medical guardian checked on him at the home.

“They told me he was doing fine, he was talking, he was responsive, they didn’t think he needed to go to the hospital. I went down to his room, the lights were off, he appeared to be sleeping, I tried to talk to him, tried to wake him up, he was non-responsive, comatose. I ran back to the desk, told the nurse that we needed an ambulance. She told me he was sleeping. I insisted she come back to the room with me.”

The nurse couldn’t wake him, so they called an ambulance, which rushed him to Pennock Hospital.

“The emergency room doctor revealed his bag of urine looked like tomato soup,” Pepper said. “He was septic; it was in his entire system.”

There was no dignity for Alfie.

He died the next day of asystole, or cardiac arrest, due to urinary tract infection and sepsis, his death certificate shows.

A state investigation, prompted by the medical guardian’s complaint, found MagnumCare at fault.

“They (the state) told me that people lost their jobs, they told me that they were fined as high as they could possibly fine them,” Pepper told Target 8.

It was Target 8 that told her how much the state had fined the home: $5,818.

“Well, that’s not really worth a life, is it?” she said. “So, I guess that Alfie pretty much died in vain, huh? Unfortunately, there are a lot of Alfies out there.”

State spokesman Jason Moon said state investigators recommended a $10,000 fine but that the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reduced it.

The death was one of two over three years at MagnumCare of Hastings that led to state fines. The June 2011 death of 76-year-old Sharon DeWitt ended with an $85,000 fine. In that case, the home failed to perform CPR or call for help when her heart failed, despite her request to take all life-saving measures.

MagnumCare didn’t respond to Target 8’s requests for interviews.

Medicare.gov rates MagnumCare of Hastings as “much below average” in health inspections and below average overall.

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