Washington Post report about patient death prompts investigation of United Medical Center

Health officials are investigating a potential breach in care protocols at United Medical Center's nursing home in Washington, D.C., which may have contributed to a patient's death in August, reports The Washington Post.

Here are five things to know.

1. The patient, 47-year-old Warren Webb, died Aug. 25 at 6 a.m. An hour before his death, Mr. Webb began yelling for help and complaining that he couldn't breathe. He cried out about 25 times in a three-minute period before a nurse entered his rooms, according to a time-stamped audio recording obtained by The Post. "I can't breathe!" Mr. Webb said in the recording. "Help me up! Please!"

2. Instead of raising Mr. Webb's bed to help him breathe better, the nurse lowered the bed. As she argued with Mr. Webb's roommate, who was pleading for her to do more, Mr. Webb rolled out of the bed onto the ground. He lay on the floor in his own urine and feces for about 20 minutes before caregivers lifted him back into bed. When they did, he had no pulse and was shortly pronounced dead of a heart attack in the hospital's emergency department, according to three interviews The Post conducted with eyewitnesses.

3. While UMC's nursing home filed an incident report about the death, the report "did not contain any information that pointed towards injury, neglect or abuse," a spokeswoman for the D.C. Health Department told The Post. Mr. Webb's family also said staff members misled them about the circumstances around his death.

4. The health department launched an investigation into the hospital after learning more details surrounding Mr. Webb's death from The Post. The Joint Commission visited United Medical Center in September and was not aware of any patient safety issues linked to Mr. Webb's death. However, the accreditation organization is now also reviewing the incident, according to the report.

5. UMC fired one nurse involved in the incident, but denies that care lapses occurred. The hospital shared the following statement with The Post:

"The matter was investigated and based on the findings, appropriate actions were taken. Timely notification to the appropriate regulatory and licensing bodies was provided and they are conducting their respective investigations. Due to resident/patient and employee privacy regulations, as well as the other ongoing investigations, we are not at liberty to discuss the matter further. However, we continue to cooperate fully."

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