Widower files suit against long-term care home

Feb 2, 2017

Fred and Alma Rieser were married for 59 years.

“We had such a good marriage,” said the 84-year-old Fred.

“In 59 years, we never had a disagreement, we never had an argument. We always were together 24 hours a day.”

When it became clear that Alma could no longer live at home without assistance, the couple made the decision to have her move into a long-term care facility.

“We never saw anything other than eye to eye so when the decision had to be made, we made it together,” Rieser said.

After careful consideration, they chose Millennium Trail Manor. It was a decision Fred Rieser said he now regrets.

Alma, then 88, fell ill in early 2016 and was given medication to treat symptoms of what appeared to be an infection. Over a four-day period, her health declined and she subsequently died from pneumonia.

Rieser visited his wife daily and claims the staff never discussed with him whether he wanted his wife to be treated at the Oakwood Drive long-term care home or for her to be transferred to a hospital.

Rieser was his wife’s substitute decision maker. Under the Health Care Consent Act, in the event that someone is unable to make a health care decision, the person’s substitute decision maker is responsible for making a decision on his or her behalf.

The widower filed a civil suit against Millennium Trail Manor in December, after reviewing a report made by the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care based on a complaint he filed shortly after his wife’s death.

The ministry found that the home failed to comply with several regulations under the Long Term Care Homes Act, including failing to ensure the “resident’s substitute decision maker was given an opportunity to participate fully in the development and implementation of the resident’s plan of care.”

The report, released in July, said the licensee also “failed to ensure that the resident was reassessed and the plan of care was reviewed and revised at least every six months and at any other time when the resident’s care needs changed,” which is also required under the act.

The ministry report does not name the resident but Rieser confirmed the subject of the report was his wife.

The ministry also noted the facility did not follow proper procedure when completing the Institutional Patient Death Record, which notifies the coroner’s office of a resident’s death.

Questions on the form included “has the family or any of the care providers raised concerns about the care provided by the deceased?”

Staff indicated “no” on the form, according to the report, even though the resident’s decision maker had indicated to staff he was upset about the cause of death.

Rieser believes his wife may have survived if she had been transferred and treated in hospital.

The civil suit, filed Dec. 14, names Millennium Trail Manor, Niagara Falls physician Dr. Hemraj Porwal and Conmed Health Care Group, a private company that owns the long-term care home.

The civil suit is calling for $300,000 for “general and special damages.”

The statement of claim, filed at the Superior Court of Justice in St. Catharines by Niagara Falls lawyer Margaret Hoy, claims the defendants “failed to assess or provide a plan of care” when Alma fell ill.

It goes on to claim the “missed diagnoses and treatment” she received resulted in her developing “severe and permanent complications which caused her death.”

The allegations have not been proven in court and a statement of defence on behalf of the defendants has not been filed with the courts.

Lori Turcotte, administrator at Millennium Trail Manor, said she could not comment specifically on the issue as it is currently before the courts but said the facility provides all residents with the best possible care.

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