A sticky situation: HCR ManorCare's court filing

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Emily Mongan
Emily Mongan

HCR ManorCare's court filing against Trinity Health Services is full of snippets that left me either scratching my head or flat out disgusted.

It's not surprising, due to the nature of the case. For those who may have missed it, ManorCare is blaming Trinity's negligence and improper conduct for one of the largest Hepatitis C outbreaks the United States has ever seen. More than 40 people were infected with Hepatitis C at ManorCare's Minot, ND, facility in 2013. That accounted for a quarter of all cases of the disease seen in the U.S. since 2008.

The lawsuit has been a veritable “he said, she said” in the years since. Residents originally sued ManorCare but reportedly withdrew their case due to new allegations that claim Trinity is solely responsible. Trinity, which maintained that such an outbreak couldn't possibly be spread through “sloppy” phlebotomy practices, will soon file an opposition to ManorCare's motion.

At 42 pages, ManorCare's filing isn't exactly light lunch break reading. But never fear: Here, for your reading (dis)pleasure, I have jotted down some hand-picked highlights.

  1. The phlebotomist allegedly responsible for the Hepatitis C outbreak (known as Employee A throughout the filing) faced numerous complaints of reusing needles during blood draws at locations around Minot. Two nurses who suspected Employee A of needle reuse at one location counted the number of discarded needles in a disposal container, and compared it to the number of blood draws Employee A did that day. They found fewer discarded needles in the container then there should have been if Employee A had used a new needle for each draw.

  1. Instead of being placed in Employee A's file, however, the nurses' complaints of needle reuse were reportedly written on scrap paper by a Trinity employee and left in a drawer.

  1. Employee A allegedly told the daughter of one ManorCare resident that she was in a hurry to finish his blood draw so she could “go play bingo.” Employee A also received complaints of being unnecessarily rough, taking cell phone calls and smelling “heavily” of smoke during blood draws.

  1. When asked why the didn't inform ManorCare or the Department of Health about complaints against Employee A, one Trinity employee said he “totally forgot about it.”

  1. Court filings maintain that evidence shows the outbreak would not have occurred if Trinity had responded properly to complaints against Employee A — “even the second, third, or fourth complaint” received.

Both ManorCare and Trinity have declined comment as their legal proceedings are ongoing, but rest assured: If the future proceedings in this case follow the same crazy trajectory we've seen over the past three years, there's bound to be even more highlights (and lowlights) to come.

Emily Mongan is McKnight's Staff Writer. Follow her @emmongan.

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McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.