A paralyzed Pagosa Springs man has filed a lawsuit against Mercy Home Health and Hospice, claiming nurses charged with his care engaged in “reckless and dangerous conduct,” which resulted in life-threatening injuries.
Joseph Ray Shouse, 43, represented by the Denver-based law offices of J.M. Reinan, filed a complaint in Archuleta County on Jan. 25, naming Catholic Health Initiatives Colorado and Mercy Home Health and Hospice as negligent parties.
The case is scheduled for trial March 28 in Archuleta County Court, Reinan said.
“Mercy had policies in effect that were supposed to keep Ray safe, and they specifically chose not to follow those policies because they said they were too burdensome,” Reinan told The Durango Herald. “And that’s why we are asking for punitive damages.”
Mercy representatives declined to comment.
According to the complaint, Shouse was paralyzed in an April 28, 2013, car crash and moved in with his sister in Pagosa Springs.
He hired Mercy’s home care nurses to provide hygiene, physical therapy and overall health care.
Around June 20, 2013, one nurse noted an open sore on Shouse’s bottom, which can lead to skin breakdown and infection.
“Despite the emergency nature of this development, Mr. Shouse was not seen again by nursing staff until four days later, on June 24,” the complaint says.
Asked in a deposition if four days is a reasonable time for a nurse to respond, Tina Gallegos, director of Mercy Home Care, said: “It’s the reality.”
For the next several weeks, Shouse’s wound “spiraled out of control.” Reinan said nurses did not provide proper wound care and accidentally administered a burning agent rather than a doctor prescribed ointment – though nurses in a deposition said that was a typo on his chart.
Shouse admitted himself to Pagosa Springs Medical on July 24.
“He should have been in the hospital three weeks earlier,” Reinan said.
The sore was septic and required a series of surgeries – a course the complaint says could have been avoided.
“The underlying problem in this case is that although Mercy has all the right policies and procedures in place, its own nursing manager, Ms. Gallegos, has decided that the policies and procedures are unreasonable and time-consuming and that her nursing staff need not follow them.”
In Gallegos’ deposition, she said Mercy’s 15-point procedure for documenting a patient is overly scrupulous, instead encouraging her nurses to “chart by exception.”
“They’re blaming Ray, saying he should have done a better job caring for himself,” Reinan said. “He’s paralyzed, and couldn’t feel this wound, and didn’t know he had it until it started to stink.”
Reinan said Shouse is doing better three years later, but has a high risk of skin breakdown because overall skin integrity has been lost.
“I’m hoping Mercy will take responsibility for what they’ve done here,” Reinan said. “And I hope they revisit their procedures so that other disabled and elderly people don’t have to suffer from the same gruesome harm that happened to Ray.”