ORANGE CITY, Iowa -- The estate of a Hawarden, Iowa, woman has sued a Hawarden nursing home for negligence, saying that staff members' failure to properly treat her after she fell and hurt her back led to her death.
The lawsuit said that during the month after her fall at Hillcrest Health Care Services, Peggy Peck was not seen by a doctor until family members asked that she be transferred to a hospital, where a CT scan revealed two fractured vertebrae. Peck was later diagnosed with osteomyelitis, a bone infection that caused her death on April 30 at age 58.
Some staff members believed Peck had been faking her injury, according to the lawsuit, filed Dec. 18 in Sioux County District Court by her mother, Joyce Peck, and sister Cathy Peck, the estate's administrator.
In addition to Hillcrest, Dr. Dale Nystrom, Joni Johnson, Amber Baker, Sarah Westover and Michelle Van Noort are named as defendants.
The Peck family is seeking punitive damages and damages for Peggy Peck's mental and physical pain and suffering before her death.
In an emailed statement, Hillcrest administrator Chris Rickard said federal regulations prevented him from commenting on the specific allegations in the lawsuit, but he denied that the nursing home's staff was negligent in its care for Peck.
"At Hillcrest Care Center, our primary concern is and has been without exception, the health and welfare of our residents. We are deeply invested in our residents and their families. We consider it a privilege to deliver skilled nursing and rehabilitative care in this community, and we are grateful for the opportunity to do so," Rickard said in the email.
According to the lawsuit, Peck fell in the bathroom on March 18 after deciding to go by herself because she had waited for more than an hour for staff to respond to her call light.
Peck complained of back pain after the fall, and nursing staff requested a prescription for narcotic pain medication rather than having a doctor examine her. According to the lawsuit, Nystrom filled the order without examining Peck.
In the following weeks, Peck continued to complain of severe pain and asked to be seen by a doctor. Nystrom did not come to see her, the lawsuit said, and nurses instead ordered physical therapy.
On April 20, Peck's family was notified of her condition. The family requested that Peck be transferred to the hospital, and, as Peck was leaving, Van Noort reportedly said, "good, now maybe they'll find out nothing is wrong (and) she can come back and behave better," the lawsuit said.
After her spinal fractures were discovered, Peck was transferred to a Sioux Falls hospital, where she was diagnosed with osteomyelitis, an infection that had set into her fractures. The lawsuit alleges it had festered and spread at Hillcrest because Peck did not receive proper medical attention.
Peck's family reported the incident to the Iowa Department of Inspection and Appeals, which on Aug. 6 cited Hillcrest and fined the facility $10,000 for failing to meet quality of care standards.
According to state records, it was at least the sixth time in the past 10 years the agency had cited Hillcrest. Since 2010, the state has fined Hillcrest a total of $37,500 for safety violations, a case in which a resident developed pressure sores and failing to report an allegation of dependent adult abuse within 24 hours.
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