Coroner not alarmed by number of deaths at nursing home

Coroner not alarmed by number of deaths at nursing home

URBANA — The Champaign County coroner said that he is not alarmed about an unusually high number of deaths at the Champaign County Nursing Home since Dec. 1.

The county nursing home board was told Monday night that as many as 60 people had died at the institution in the past three months, when in a normal month there are an average of 5.3 deaths.

Board members pressed the nursing home administration to conduct a prompt and thorough review of the deaths to determine if there was an unusual circumstance or cause.

But Champaign County Coroner Duane Northrup — who said he had not been contacted by the nursing home administration — said Tuesday that there were 42 deaths at the facility between Dec. 1 and March 11, and that 20 were hospice patients and 20 more were people 90 years old or older.

"At this point after looking at the numbers, I'm not concerned that there are a larger number of deaths at the Champaign County Nursing Home, based off the information I've seen," said Northrup, who by law must review every nursing home death in the county. "It seems to be fairly well explained in comparison to what is going on."

Northrup said he reviewed the dates and times of death for the nursing home fatalities.

"I went to see if we had three deaths on the same shift or four deaths in a certain period and it seems to me that they were pretty well consistently spaced out over the last two or three months," he said. "Just looking at the numbers and what I know, I don't see anything on the face of it that says I should be overly concerned about anything at the nursing home."

He also said there were no unusual circumstances "that really piqued us and said, 'Hey, we need to go look at this death' or anything. There were all kinds of different causes of death. It was all over the board."

While the county nursing home reported 42 deaths between Dec. 1, 2012, and March 11, 2013, the slightly larger Champaign-Urbana Regional Rehab Center in Savoy had 15 deaths in the same period. But only five of its deaths were hospice patients and only three were 90 or older.

Overall in 2012, Northrup said, there were 71 deaths at the nursing home. The Champaign-Urbana Regional Rehab Center reported 83 deaths for the year, he said.

Further, Northrup said, overall deaths in the county were far greater than normal in December, January and February.

In a normal month, Northrup said, there are 120 to 140 deaths in Champaign County. There were about 175 deaths in December and 181 in January.

"When December 31st hit, that was the most deaths we'd ever had in a month since I've been here in 2001," he said. "In January, we beat that number. January was the busiest month I've ever had in the coroner's office."

The number of February death calls — 134 — was also above normal for the 28-day month, he said.

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jellen wrote on March 18, 2013 at 2:03 pm

I think the nursing home needs further investigation by a neutral party. This is an extremely high amount of deaths for a short period of time. I don't think using hospice as an excuse or reason is adequate or acceptable. My mother was one of the 90/42 deaths and she was on hospice as well as being 93 years old. We employed hospice after she fell and broke her wrist and a few months later fell and broke her hip. After the hip fracture she was bed ridden and needed as much extra care as was possible, therefore, we asked hospice to get involved. There is a question of how well she was being supervised prior to the falls that resulted in the broken wrist and hip, thereby causing the need for hospice.

I would hope that this would be thoroughly investigated and whatever needs to be done or changed at the nursing home for the residents to get better care be implemented.