My name is David William Kurth. My father was William F. Kurth. He loved our country and served many years as an officer in both the United States Army and Wisconsin National Guard. My father was an Eagle Scout and a Boy Scout Leader. He served as a volunteer fireman for our community for more than 25 years. He taught his children and many others to love and serve this country as well. He taught us to obey its laws, respect its traditions and to uphold the rights of others.
He was an honest man. He was a mentor to many people. He was a good man. He was my hero.
My father entered Mount Carmel Nursing Home in Burlington, Wisconsin in October 2004. In February 2005, while left unattended, Dad fell. He complained about the pain in his hip throughout that day. It took another 12 hours before they found that he had broken his left hip. He spent several days in the Burlington Hospital having his hip repaired. Little did my family or I know that this was to be the last time we would ever have any meaningful conversation with my father.
Shortly after returning to Mount Carmel Nursing Home his left leg was broken again during physical therapy that was improperly applied. My mother said that during this session of therapy the therapist insisted that my father’s leg must be fully straightened. My father was screaming in pain and trying his best to resist their efforts. Yet they didn’t listen and broke his leg halfway between the hip and knee.
It was at about this time he contracted MRSA infection.
During this same time his healthcare coverage was changed from Medicare to Medicaid. The very day his coverage changed he was moved from his private room in the Medicare wing to a shared room in the Medicaid wing of the nursing facility.
The staff did not clean his new room prior to his arrival. Dad’s new room was filthy and smelled of feces. The bed he was placed in was coated with dirt. My wife and I personally had to clean his room and bed the following Sunday after he transferred to the Medicaid wing. His room never was properly cleaned throughout the duration of his stay in the Medicaid wing. The bathroom he shared with three other men had not been properly cleaned for a long time.
We didn’t know then that management of the Nursing Home had made a cost-cutting move and disbanded a multi-member wound care team. What this meant was that a facility of 150 aged and infirm patients that had been cared for by a committee of five people overseeing their wound care was now to be attended by only one person.
The court records and testimony show that this sole Wound Care Nurse never attended my father’s wounds for weeks, if not months, even after it was brought to her attention by the visiting Doctor in late April. None of us had any idea that he was in such poor condition. During this time the only staff member that discussed my father’s situation with us was the nurse that administered my father’s medications.
The Doctor, upon seeing the progression of my father’s illness, had my father rushed by ambulance to the Emergency Room at Burlington Hospital. My father was admitted to the hospital that very morning. The Doctor told us of how shocked he was at the poor care my father had received at the nursing facility. His words were that of neglect and disappointment that a nursing staff could let someone deteriorate to such a condition. At this time the Doctor told us that my father was terminally ill and that my father did not have much chance to survive his infections. My father was admitted to the Hospice Section of the Hospital. A few days later he was transferred to a special Hospice in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. Here he was finally provided very fine care during his last days with us.
My father died on June 25th, 2005 from sepsis of the blood due to infections caused by more than 10 bedsores. Some of these bedsores ran deep into the bones of his backside, hips and pelvis. The infection was caused by the excrement and urine that was not cleansed from the wounds for days at a time. The bedsores were caused by neglect. The wound care nurse that was responsible for caring for my father has been charged and found guilty of criminal neglect by the State of Wisconsin for these actions.
As revolting as all of these ordeals for my father and mother sound, this is not the most shocking part of my Father’s story. My father’s ordeal was hidden from the light of day by a document called an “arbitration agreement” which he himself never signed. My mother was instructed to sign them by the Admission Clerk at the Nursing Home while no one else was present.
Ladies and Gentlemen, my father’s story is not an isolated case. Nursing home corporations are using arbitration clauses as liability shields to insulate them from their own wrongful conduct.
In my father’s case it was economically more profitable to let people like my father suffer then to provide proper care. And if by chance a surviving family member is moved enough to hold the corporation to account, the whole ordeal gets buried in a secret arbitration committee, which is also hired by the nursing home. The public is none the wiser. All the while the surrounding community keeps sending their elderly in to these places, totally unaware of their continued abuse because the corporation has it all locked away, nice and tidy.
How ironic is it that my father, a Captain in the United States Army, who had prepared to serve his country to the death, died of infections due to neglect caused by the unscrupulous cost cutting measures of a large nursing home corporation that has been cited for neglect many times in several states over the last several years?
How disgusting is it that the very system of justice and laws my father fought to protect prevents him from pleading his case in a court of law?
Ladies and Gentlemen, my mother and sister and I plead with you to help right a great wrong that is being perpetrated on the elderly and infirm of America. If you, in your wisdom, can see fit to ban the use and practice of these Arbitration Agreements upon the elderly entering nursing homes you will be correcting the management of their care. Without these Arbitration Agreements to hide behind all the Nursing Homes in America will have to improve the care they provide to the level that is necessary and expected of them.
Washington is a very busy place. You are all very busy people. Yet you have found it in your hearts that this cause is worthy of your time and commitment. It is by God Almighty’s Hand that you have come to your position this day for such a time as this. You are a light on a hill. Please let that light shine on those who must be protected. Please don’t let my father’s story be allowed to happen to another innocent American.
This country was built upon the infirm that now reside in these nursing homes. The Veterans who fought for us, the teachers that provided us knowledge, the carpenters that built our homes and businesses, the little old ladies that taught us Sunday school, live in these Nursing Homes. They took care of us. These are our heroes. Now it is time we took care of them in a manner which is worthy of the sacrifices they made for us.
David William Kurth