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Oak Forest Hospital worker sues employer for mistreating mom

Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Daily Southtown
by Gregg Sherrard Blesch

An Oak Forest Hospital aide is suing her employer on behalf of a patient she says has suffered from rotten care: her 94-year-old mom.
Pearl Harris broke both thighbones in November when she got tangled up in the side rails of her bed.
The injuries led to a gangrenous foot, and the staff allowed the wound to become infested with maggots, then tried to hide the condition from Harris' family and physicians, the lawsuit alleges.
"At one time I gave that place the highest of respect," Harris' daughter Loraine Files said. Files, who lives in Harvey, has been a certified nursing assistant at the Cook County hospital for nearly 19 years.
A spokeswoman for the Bureau of Health said the county doesn't talk about pending litigation.
Harris has been living in a long-term care unit at the hospital for five years.
Files and her siblings decided to place their mother at the hospital because three of them work there. They were familiar with the quality of care and could visit her daily.
"This was an eye-opener for me," Files said. "I guess I walked around with blinders on my eyes."
Files said she had asked the nursing supervisor months ago about her mother's sores, particularly the one on her foot, and was told little could be done because the woman's circulation was so poor.
But recently a co-worker disclosed to her that maggots had been found in the foot in July, Files said.
It takes several days for fly eggs to hatch and grow into larvae.
The Illinois Department of Public Health investigated Harris' November injury and faulted the hospital because Harris, who is obese and immobile without a wheelchair, was known to make confused attempts to get out of bed on her own.
A doctor ordered "bumper pads" for the rails to prevent Harris from getting her legs caught in the bars, but a note in her records indicates she refused them, saying, "You're putting me in jail."
Files' sister Etta Malone, also a nursing assistant at Oak Forest Hospital, shared snapshots Monday of her mother's foot, which appeared grotesquely swollen and blackened, a wet sore cracked in the heel.
"It looks mummified, like she's a mummy dug up a 100 years ago," Malone said.
Files said she doesn't fear any backlash in her workplace for filing the lawsuit.
"Right now my concern is my mother's care and other patients' care," Files said. "If it's happening to us, and we're right  there, what else is happening?"


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