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NHC Healthcare - St. Charles Burn Victim Donna Chapman Laid To Rest

Donna Chapman, who was a resident at the NHC Healthcare - St. Charles nursing home facility in St. Charles, Missouri, was recently laid to rest. Sadly, Ms. Chapman died after facility employees failed to properly supervise her while she was smoking. After leaving her alone to smoke without supervision, Ms. Chapman caught on fire and suffered terrible burns over her body. She died the next day from her injuries.

It appears from reviewing her obituary (which you can read here) was quite an accomplished woman.  She held clerking jobs at several locations and became the first woman underwriter of Siebels Bruce Insurance Company in Orlando, Florida.  It is clear that she had many friends who loved her and cared for her even as she aged into her eighties.  Friends even came to decorate her room at the facility for the holidays. 

Donna Chapman earned the right to be treated much better than NHC Healthcare - St. Charles treated her.  Sadly, more than likely, her death occurred because the nursing home either didn't have enough staff members to properly supervise its residents or the employees were not properly trained.

I have handled more nursing home cases than I can remember where the nursing home just did not have enough staff members to properly supervise the residents.  And, without fail, the nursing home will say that supervision is not one-on-one care.  They will say that they can't possibly provide one-on-one care with every resident and, I suspect, that will be one of the excuses they give to this family as well.  But that argument is a red herring because no one is asking them to provide one-on-one care with every resident.  But when a resident is engaged in an activity that is inherently dangerous, the nursing home clearly has a responsibility to provide the level of supervision required to keep the resident safe.  Clearly NHC Healthcare - St. Charles failed miserably in its responsibility to keep Donna Chapman safe.

So when NHC starts giving these excuses, they should be reminded that the regulatory rules the govern nursing homes in Missouri and throughout the United States require that nursing home facilities:

  • Meet the needs of every resident
  • Make sure that the nursing home area is free from accident hazards and risks and provides supervision to prevent avoidable accidents
  • Not abuse or neglect their residents
  • Provide care and an environment that promotes quality of life
  • Provide residents with dignity and respect
  • Provide a safe environment for their residents
  • Provide care and services for the residents' highest well being
  • Make sure that there is sufficient 24 hours nursing staff for the residents
To meet Donna Chapman's needs, NHC staff should have used protective equipment that is readily available for smokers AND there should have been at least one NHC staff member near enough to her to either prevent the fire or safely extinguish it before it overtook her.  Unfortunately neither one happened and Donna Chapman paid the ultimate, painful price.

In the cases I pursue, I always want to get to the "WHY" did this event happen.  Here are the main questions I believe should be pursued at this stage:

  • WHY did the staff not use the protective equipment that they knew they should?
  • WHY where no staff members supervising her when they should have been?
Most likely, the answer will be that there was not enough staff to properly supervise (probably because the NHC parent company didn't provide the budget necessary to supervise appropriately) and the staff that was there was either too busy to put the protective equipment on her (i.e too little staff) or they didn't know they were supposed to put protective equipment on her (i.e. insufficient training).  Neither answer is valid.

Again, our condolences go out to the family of Donna Chapman.  It sounds like she was quite the woman. 

The Terry Law Firm is dedicated to pursuing justice for Missouri's nursing home residents.  To learn more feel free to visit our website at www.NursingHomeJustice.com or call our office for a FREE copy of David Terry's book 5 Things You Must Know About Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect In Missouri.

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