On April 17, 2019, a 63-year-old Ohio nursing home resident accidentally set himself on fire while smoking a cigarette while sitting in his wheelchair in front of the nursing home. The man was using oxygen at the time of the incident.
The police arrived on the scene after receiving a frantic 911 call that the man had fallen to the ground and that his wheelchair was on fire. The police detective who was the first to arrive saw the man face down on the pavement. The detective stated, “There was a wheelchair that was smoldering in front of the building with a male lying on the ground. I noticed the male wasn’t breathing and noticed that something needed to be done now, so as we got him rolled over I checked his vitals. He had no pulse, he wasn’t breathing. So my instinct was to start CPR until our fire department got there.”
A pack of cigarettes and a lighter were found at the scene. The man later died from his injuries at a local hospital.
A spokesperson for the Ohio nursing home stated, “Resident care and safety is the highest priority. Due to the privacy and confidentiality of our resident’s information we are unable to discuss specific resident information. Embassy healthcare is cooperating fully with state and local governing bodies on this investigation.”
In November 2011, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), Office of Clinical Standards and Quality/Survey & Certification Group, issued a memorandum to State Survey Agency Directors in response to its receipt of a report of a nursing home resident who was smoking outside the building without supervision and accidentally ignited her clothing. The memorandum reviewed the current regulations and Guidance to Surveyors (Interpretive Guidelines) at 42 CFR, Part 483.25(h), F323, Accidents and Supervision that describe appropriate precautions such as smoking only in designated areas, supervising residents whose assessment and plans of care indicate a need for supervised smoking, and limiting the accessibility of matches and lighters by residents who need supervision when smoking.
CMS stated in its “Alert: Smoking Safety in Long Term Care Facilities”: “Facility policies must describe the methods by which residents are deemed safe to smoke without supervision. These methods may include assessment of a resident’s cognitive ability, judgment, manual dexterity and mobility. Frequency of reassessment to determine if any change has occurred should also be documented … Facilities should err on the side of caution and provide staff, family or volunteer supervision when unsure of whether or not the resident is safe to smoke unsupervised. Oxygen use is prohibited in smoking areas for the safety of residents (NFPA 101, 2000 ed., 19.7.4) … Facilities should ensure resident safety by such efforts as informing visitors of smoking policies and hazards to prevent smoking related incidents and/or injuries … a change in the facility’s policy to prohibit smoking does not affect current residents who smoke. Current residents are allowed to continue smoking in a designated area that may be outside, weather permitting. Residents admitted after the policy change must be informed, during the admission process, of the policy prohibiting smoking. The facility is obligated to ensure the safety of designated smoking areas which includes protection of residents from weather conditions and non-smoking residents from second hand smoke. The facility is also required to provide portable fire extinguishers in all facilities (NFPA 101, 2000 ed., 18/188.8.131.52). The Life Safety Code (NFPA 101, 2000 ed., 19.7.4) requires each smoking area be provided with ashtrays made of noncombustible material and safe design. Metal containers with self closing covers into which ashtrays can be emptied must be readily available.”
If you or a loved one suffered injuries (or worse) while a resident of a nursing home in the United States due to nursing home neglect, nursing home negligence, nursing home abuse, nursing home under-staffing, or the nursing home failing to properly care for a vulnerable adult, you should promptly find a nursing home claim lawyer in your state who may investigate your nursing home claim for you and file a nursing home claim on your behalf or behalf of your loved one, if appropriate.
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