Authorities investigate woman's death in Eufaula home

Friday, August 18th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) -- State officials are investigating the death this week of 92-year-old resident of a Eufaula nursing home.

Mazie Campbell Sanders was found dead Monday morning at Eufaula Manor Nursing Home, Eufaula Police Chief Randy Johnston said. He said the investigation has been turned over to the state Medical Examiner's Office.

The state Health Department also is investigating, said James Joslin, director of the department's long-term care division.

"They notified us that ... they had found a resident caught in between the bed rails," Joslin said.

The death is the second since 1998 in which a resident at the home died in that manner. Richard Pennington died at the home on April 7, 1998, and his son and daughter have filed lawsuits against the facility.

Joslin said investigators in the Sanders case will try to determine whether a doctor had approved use of restraints.

Eufaula Manor is owned by Central Arkansas Nursing Centers of Fort Smith, Ark. Michael Morton, who owns the company, said Thursday that a doctor had approved the use of bed rails in Sanders' case.

Morton said he believes the investigations will show that the home was not at fault in Sanders' death.

"They (staff) responded appropriately," he told the Tulsa World. "The administrator is going to a memorial service for her this afternoon. We didn't cover it up."

Joey Riggs, director for complaints and enforcement at the state Health Department, said it is "very likely" that Sanders suffocated. He said he is not sure when staff members who were on duty at the home overnight had last checked on her.

The state Medical Examiner's Office ruled Pennington's death an accident caused by "asphyxiation by neck compression."

Attorney Betty Williams, who is handling one of the lawsuits filed by Pennington's children, said state officials investigated the death and found "wrongdoing."

Morton said he could not comment on that case, but said his home was neither negligent in its handling of nor responsible for the death.

A 1999 inspection cited the home with 10 deficiencies -- more than twice the state average -- including using physical restraints that were not medically necessary, records show.

Federal reports show that the home's reliance on restraints far exceeds state and national averages. Medicare reports show that physical restraints were used on 52 percent of the home's residents. The national average is 10 percent; the state average is 13 percent.