An 84-year-old U.S. Army veteran’s pressing medical needs were blatantly ignored by a Jacksonville, Florida, nursing home staff last year — and he died shortly after.
York Spratling first checked into Consulate Health Care in December 2016 while suffering from diabetes, his nephew, Derwin Spratling, told the Naples Daily News. The veteran’s health was declining. Walking and feeding himself was a struggle, making living on his own impossibly unrealistic.
Less than three months after being admitted to Consulate Health, Spratling’s condition took a terrible turn for the worse, and on Feb. 24, 2017, he was carried out of the nursing home on a stretcher and rushed to the emergency room.
The ER trip, however, wasn’t the product of diabetic concerns.
Shortly after Spratling’s admission to the hospital, the doctor came into the waiting room to talk to family who had gathered.
There, Derwin Spratling received the shocking news: His uncle needed surgery to remove dead tissue from his genitals, which had been infected with gangrene.
The doctor said "he had never seen anything like that before, especially in this day and age,” Derwin Spratling told the Naples Daily News. “It really freaked us out.”
“Who was taking care of this man?” Spratling’s sister, Lula Price-Brown, asked. “His private area, nobody washed that.”
After the procedure to remove the rotten flesh, Spratling’s condition worsened exponentially.
“It didn’t just happen overnight, but it was quicker than you could imagine,” Derwin said.
Soon after, York Spratling was dead.
State investigators from Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration, or AHCA, which oversees nursing home regulations, began looking into Spratling’s case in the aftermath of what appeared to be gross mismanagement of a nursing home patient.
The AHCA had already cited the Consulate Health Care nursing home three times in the year leading up to the 84-year-old’s death, with each report pointing to inadequate staffing and an inability to provide even the most basic care for patients, such as bathing or hygiene.
Months before Spratling’s death, an unnamed patient at the same nursing home submitted an alarming complaint to AHCA inspectors, noting, “I have not had a shower in I don’t know how long," according to the report.
When questioned about Spratling’s case, meanwhile, nursing home staff reportedly told state investigators that the stench emanating from his infection was so bad that it could be smelled from the doorway of his room.
But despite the easily discernible health risk, staff members didn’t document or notify a doctor about the infection until a full five days after first noticing the odor, the report said.
Spratling’s condition was "way past obvious,” Derwin Spratling said. “This is so past obvious that it’s mind-blowing.”
“Everything was about to fall off, it was so rotten,” York Spratling’s brother, Obie, affirmed, as part of an in-depth Naples Daily News investigation into a rash of nursing home malpractice cases throughout Florida.
Following his death, a subsequent report conducted by the Florida Department of Children and Families ruled that Spratling had indeed died due to “inadequate supervision and medical neglect."
The AHCA, however, reportedly took no action against the facility despite the report’s pointed contents, thus allowing the nursing home’s conditions of patient squalor to persist.
Patient complaints have continued since Spratling’s death, with “neglect and inadequate staffing” principal among them. Eight months after York Spratling was rushed to the emergency room with rotting flesh, another patient told AHCA inspectors, “I wallow around in this bed in my own piss.”
To date, little has been done to rectify the dearth of adequate, humane treatment.
In the state of Florida between 2013 and 2017, 43 cases were opened looking into the deaths of 54 nursing residents, the report said. Each case cited medical negligence or error as the cause of death.
Of those cases, however, the nursing homes in question avoided all repercussions — fines or other penalties — in 32 of them.
Jon Simkins is a writer and editor for Military Times, and a USMC veteran.