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Published: Friday, 7/1/2005

Family buries victim of heat, awaits answers

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Matney Matney
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Patricia Matney was buried yesterday by a family struggling to answer several questions about what happened Sunday at the Waterville nursing home where she lived.

Who helped the 49-year-old woman outside on a stifling hot day and how long did she remain lying on a blanket on the concrete?

Did anyone check on Ms. Matney, who had multiple sclerosis and could not move without help?

And what medical criteria were considered before the decision was made to allow her to go out in the heat?

This much the family knows:

Ms. Matney died of hyperthermia Sunday after spending several hours sunbathing in 90-degree-plus heat in a fenced-in area of the Heartland of Waterville nursing center. Lucas County Coroner's Office investigators said her body temperature was recorded at 109 degrees, although they speculate it was even higher.

Family members have said that they do not want to comment on the situation without having more information. However, late Wednesday they issued a statement posing several questions and asking nursing home officials to share details of Ms. Matney's death.

"We would respectfully request that they share the incident report and allow us to speak with anyone, patients and staff, which can shed light on this incident," the statement read. "We entrusted Pat's care and her life to Heartland and feel these questions should be answered."

An Ohio Department of Health spokesman confirmed yesterday that investigators were at the center at 8885 Browning Drive, this week. Michelle LoParo said that a report will be available within 10 days.

Yesterday, Julie Beckert, a spokesman for HCR Manor Care, the center's parent company, said the family is welcome to speak with nursing home officials. She added that the company prefers to have personal conversations with family members rather than answering their questions through the media. She declined further comment.

The home last was inspected by the Ohio Department of Health in October, 2004. According to the department's Web site, all inspections, dating to 2001, show that none of the violations committed by the center was serious enough to be labeled as an indication of substandard care or that patients were in jeopardy.

Ms. LoParo said the center will be able to respond to the results of this week's investigation before the department's district office presents its findings. If the facility rejects that finding, a hearing would be held, she said.

"We're going to be looking at the facility, that will be our main focus," she said. "If we think they were criminally negligent we would make recommendation to law enforcement."

The county coroner's office is handling the local investigation. Dr. Diane Barnett, a deputy coroner, said Monday she is conducting several tests, including determining the effects of heat on Ms. Matney's medications.

Yesterday, Ms. Matney's family and friends gathered to bid farewell to the woman they called a "jokester." Their quest for answers was put on hold as they remembered the woman who tried to live a normal life while fighting a disease that attacked her nervous system.

Ms. Matney's elder sister, Cindy Kazmierczak, said yesterday the family plans to meet after the funeral to decide what to do next.

Contact Erica Blake at:

eblake@theblade.com

or 419-724-6076.



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