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Published: 9/15/2006

Fall at nursing home probed

BY JOE VARDON
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Hiram Crabtree reportedly told officials at Harborside Healthcare on Sept. 2 that another patient in the Perrysburg Township nursing home pushed him to the floor, authorities said yesterday.

Mr. Crabtree, an 85-year-old Alzheimer's patient, was found on the floor in the nursing home's dementia ward late that night and was taken to Bay Park Community Hospital with a broken hip early Sept. 3. He died in the hospital four days later.

The Lucas County Coroner's Office, Perrysburg Township police, Ohio Department of Health, and the nursing home are working to determine whether a malicious act by another dementia-ward patient led to Mr. Crabtree's death.

"Workers at the nursing home are not under suspicion," township police Detective Sgt. Robb Gates said.

A health department official said the initial report it received from Harborside said Mr. Crabtree indicated to staff he'd been pushed. The department declined to release a copy of the report because its lawyers are analyzing it.

Dr. James Patrick, Lucas County coroner, said information his office received from the nursing home indicates Mr. Crabtree may have been pushed. The coroner's office asked township police to investigate.

Sergeant Gates interviewed Harborside Administrator Mary McConnell and Director of Nursing Sandy Skelton, who both said no staff members witnessed the incident.

Ms. McConnell told The Blade that only patients suffering from Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia are housed in the dementia ward.

Dr. Patrick said the medical investigation is continuing and results of a complete autopsy might not be available for weeks. He said a broken hip can awaken other dormant illnesses inside an elderly person's body, which is what his office is trying to determine.

Sergeant Gates said the initial report he received from the coroner's office indicated a broken hip and pneumonia caused Mr. Crabtree's death.

The sergeant said any additional investigation by his department is on hold until he receives further direction from the coroner or the Wood County Prosecutor's Office.

"We're not calling it a homicide or a wrongful death at this time," he said.

"We don't have proof Mr. Crabtree was pushed or knocked to the floor. Everyone in the [ward] at the time he fell has either Alzheimer's or dementia, which makes this case more difficult," he said.

Ms. McConnell declined to discuss the case, but said the nursing home was cooperating in the investigation.

"We have nothing to hide," Ms. McConnell said.

Contact Joe Vardon at:

jvardon@theblade.com

or 419-410-5055.



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