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July 29, 2014

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Fall proves fatal for elderly patient

Morry Janovitz

A courtesy photo of Morry Janovitz taken by his wife Pamela after his first fall in Spring Valley Hospital. In late 2008, then 82-year-old Morry Janovitz was admitted Spring Valley Hospital for pneumonia, and the day before he was scheduled to be discharged, he was found on the floor of his hospital room, his neck broken and forehead gashed. Two weeks later he was found on the floor again, this time with just a bruised elbow. Janovitz died from complications three months later. Launch slideshow »

A day before Morry Janovitz was scheduled to be discharged from Spring Valley Hospital Medical Center, he was found on the floor of his room — his forehead gashed, his neck broken.

Just that fast, the 82-year-old man who was recovering from pneumonia faced a dire prognosis. Emergency room doctors determined Janovitz had a “hangman’s fracture” — a break of the second cervical vertebra. It was a miracle he was alive.

A retiree who had moved to Las Vegas in 2001 with his wife, Pamela, Janovitz had been classified as a fall risk when he was admitted to the hospital. He required assistance to get into bed and to use the bathroom.

After surgery to fuse his neck, Janovitz’s fall-risk assessment was elevated, according to hospital records.

Medical staffs are supposed to take precautions to ensure falls don’t occur, but doctors and nurses say hospitals are often short-staffed. When falls occur and result in broken bones, state law considers them sentinel events — incidents in which a patient is harmed while under hospital care.

Two weeks after Janovitz’s first fall, he was again found on the floor of his room. This time his only injury was a bruised elbow.

But as his stay at Spring Valley dragged on, Janovitz developed a severe bedsore on his buttocks. The size of a fist, the open wound was blackened with dead flesh and caused excruciating pain.

Janovitz recovered from the pneumonia that brought him to the hospital but complications led to his death on March 21, 2009, three months after his initial fall.

A “statement of deficiencies” produced after an investigation by the Nevada State Health Division found Spring Valley had failed to protect Janovitz from falling and provide proper care for the subsequent bedsores.

The Sun’s analysis of Spring Valley’s inpatient records for 2008 and 2009 shows two cases of advanced-stage bedsores and 13 cases of falls that resulted in some type of trauma.

It’s unknown whether Spring Valley reported Janovitz’s falls because the state does not release patient names in connection with sentinel events.

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