After conferring with a medical expert, Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway's office has decided not to reopen the case of a Lexington nursing home resident who was found severely injured last year in a room that stored equipment.
Scott Owens, an attorney who represents Irene Hendrix, 89, in a civil lawsuit, had asked Conway's office to reopen the investigation of her unexplained injuries at Lexington's Cambridge Place Nursing Home.
But in a Sept. 21 letter to Owens, Mitchel Denham, executive director of the attorney general's Office of Medicaid Fraud and Abuse Control, said the case was closed. The Herald-Leader recently acquired the letter under Kentucky's open-records law.
"Because there is no physical or medical evidence of an assault and there is no evidence of criminal neglect, our office will not be opening this case for a full criminal investigation," Denham wrote.
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The Herald-Leader reported on Aug. 21 that nursing home staff told investigators that Hendrix fell in January 2009 after she went missing while moving up and down the hall in a Merry Walker, a type of walker that includes a seat.
Bones in Hendrix's face were broken, there was bleeding in her brain, and she had a 4-centimeter cut on her forehead, a cut on her lip and a swollen eye, according to state documents. Hendrix, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, had to be hospitalized.
A state adult-protection worker determined that Hendrix was a victim of caretaker neglect and had been exposed to an extreme safety risk. The protection worker told the attorney general's office that she thought Hendrix's injuries were the result of an accident.
Cambridge Place officials, in a court filing, have denied any negligence.
Hendrix was found in a room that stored medical equipment. A description of the room and descriptions of how Hendrix might have fallen differed in the investigative reports of various agencies.
The attorney general's office closed the case in March 2009, determining that the injuries were caused by an accidental fall.
Owens asked in August 2010 that the case be reopened.
Denham, in turn, asked physician William Smock, a forensic medical expert from New Albany, Ind., to determine the nature of the injuries.
In a Sept. 7 letter to Denham, Smock said that after reviewing photographs, medical records and the results of a CAT scan, "there is no evidence in the medical record that injuries were caused by any mechanism other than a fall."
Denham said in his letter to Owens that even though the inspector general found deficiencies in how the facility cared for Hendrix, "it cannot be said that the facility's deficiency in this area was a gross deviation from the standard of care."
"There is no evidence that any criminal neglect occurred in this case," Denham said in the letter.
Denham said in the letter that the discrepancies in the reports could be explained. He said that people who did not witness the fall were simply espousing theories and that the room had different uses at different times.
Owens, the attorney who asked that the case be reopened, said he thinks more could have been learned about what happened if a thorough investigation had been conducted at the time that Hendrix was injured.
Owens said the Kentucky General Assembly should make sure there is funding so that thorough investigations can occur immediately when nursing home residents are injured.
"The legislature is going to have to step up to the plate," Owens said.