Widow blames understaffing at The Fountains for husband's death
The widow of a Yuba City man says understaffing to bolster profitability at The Fountains skilled nursing facility resulted in her husband's death.
David L. Billen, 71, died in July 2011 after suffering from penile cancer, urinary infections and incontinence, according to a lawsuit filed in Yuba County Superior Court.
The suit, which seeks unspecified damages, alleges Billen "was neither properly examined nor treated for this cancerous condition during the time he resided at The Fountains."
Fremont-Rideout Health Group and The Fountains are named as defendants. Fremont-Rideout has since changed its name to Rideout Health.
"It is in litigation, and we are not allowed to discuss litigation," Sabrina Thomas, executive secretary for Fremont-Rideout house counsel, said Tuesday.
The suit, filed by Maria Billen and her son, David, said The Fountains was "chronically understaffed," a decision "made at the corporate level by Fremont-Rideout to increase the profitability of the nursing home chain."
Billen lived in The Fountains from July 2010 through March 2011, when the cancer was diagnosed.
"I think that penile cancer, in my view, had the facility's staffing been adequate and more responsive to him, they could have intervened earlier. At least there would have been a better chance of survival for a longer period of time," said Davis attorney Joseph Wiseman, who filed the suit.
"It's a pretty awful situation what happened to this guy," Wiseman said, "particularly when he got to the acute hospital and they had to do that terrible amputation."
The suit alleged that the cancerous penile condition "would have been noticeable six to nine months earlier had routine, thorough examinations been performed on David."
Had the cancer been noted earlier, the suit said, "the radical removal of his entire penis would have been avoided."
The suit, filed last month, said "egregious conduct of the highest order" led to Billen's death.
Fremont-Rideout has a "pattern and practice of staffing in its facilities with an insufficient number of care personnel, many of whom were not properly trained nor qualified to care for the elders whose lives were entrusted to them," the suit said.
Fremont-Rideout wanted to "reduce labor costs and to increase profits," the suit alleged.