INDIANAPOLIS – The death of a resident at an Indianapolis nursing home was the “highly predictable consequence” of mismanagement and negligence.
That’s according to a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of Patricia Newnum, a hospice patient who was raped and smothered at Homestead Healthcare Center in February.
The lawsuit, filed this week in Marion Superior Court, alleged that poor conditions at the nursing home, mismanagement and constant staff turnover contributed to the 80-year-old woman’s death.
The suit named Homestead’s operator, CommuniCare Inc., and its owner, Adams County Memorial Hospital, as defendants. It includes several key pieces of information gleaned from investigative reporting by the IndyStar, which wrote a comprehensive piece that included interviews with former residents and staff.
On the morning of Feb. 2, 2022, a medical assistant entered Newnum’s room and found a male resident on top of her holding a pillow over her face. The man, identified as 60-year-old Dwayne Freeman, is charged with murder and rape.
Freeman, who had a criminal history as well as a history of alcohol abuse, had consumed substantial amounts of alcohol, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit pointed to a series of problems at Homestead, including 26 health citations over the last 3 years, a remarkable rate of staff turnover (79%, compared to 50% nationally, with turnover of registered nurses at 92%) and multiple calls to the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, which had responded to the nursing home at least 30 times since January 2021 for investigations ranging from thefts and assaults to drug cases.
The lawsuit said drug abuse was rampant at the facility, “so pervasive that Homestead Healthcare Center residents were issued Narcan, an emergency medication that reverses the effects of opioid overdoses.”
Homestead also had a poor track record when it came to health inspections. Staff left an IV inserted into a man’s arm unattended for more than a week. The man went into septic shock and died. Hospital records described the IV dressing as “heavily soiled”; Homestead ended up with a fine of $87,334 from the state health department in the case, part of $117,000 in fines levied against the facility in 2021.
“Homestead Healthcare Center has long been plagued by poor staffing and supervision,” the lawsuit said. “A culture of crime, drugs, alcohol abuse, and poor treatment of residents and patients has been permitted to fester.”
The lawsuit said Newnum’s rape and murder were the “inevitable result” of years of “egregious mismanagement” that allowed “rampant criminality, assaults, and alcohol/drug abuse to be omnipresent at Homestead Healthcare Center.”
Homestead is accused of wrongful death, negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress and pre-death loss of consortium. The lawsuit also alleges violations of the Federal Nursing Home Reform Act.
The family is seeking compensation, including attorneys’ fees and punitive damages, for the loss of a loved one.
Homestead responded with the following statement:
“We continue to be saddened for the family’s loss however it is our policy not to comment on pending litigation.”