Chicago Rehab Workers Accused Of Letting Patient Burn To Death

CBS Chicago
The staff at a rehab clinic in Chicago was negligent when a patient died from a fire that started on his shirt, the man's sister is alleging in a lawsuit. The incident occurred two years ago when the wheelchair-bound Michael Lewis was on the verge of checking out of the Lake Shore HealthCare and Rehabilitation Centre.

But his shirt caught on fire from his pocket lighter and the staff failed to intervene before he perished in the flame. (Footage from the security video can be seen below.) Representatives from the facility are not making comments to the media. They told the local CBS affiliate, which first broke the story, they're being confined by privacy laws.

Speaking to the CBS affiliate, Lewis's sister, Lisa Couch, made clear her disgust. "He sustained burns like from mid-thigh up to the eyebrows," she said. "The horror, to think my brother is on fire and no one is there?"

The scene is indeed a harrowing one. At the time his shirt caught fire, Lewis was located on the patio outside the center, which is a designated smoking area. And after the fire began, the staff tried a range of fixes; they wheeled him both inside and outside and sprayed a fire extinguisher on him. But a full five minutes passed before Lewis was given oxygen, and another 10 before CPR was applied, according to the CBS report. And that was done by emergency responders, and not by anyone on staff.

None of it would be enough. And as emergency response expert Stanley Zydio told the local outlet, the rescue effort was riddled with other problems. There appeared to be a lack of leadership, and a blanket should have immediately been placed on Lewis to try and smother the fire. The video footage also fails to show "anybody evaluating him or doing CPR for him," according to Zydio.

By the time EMS workers arrived on the scene it was too late -- Lewis had already died of cardiac arrest.

While the lawsuit is still playing out, Lake Shore officials have already said its staff are to receive new training to handle such emergencies. And as McKnight's Long Term Care News points out, if recent history is any guide, the Chicago-center may end up with a large penalty on its hands. The Virginia-based Carriage Hill Health & Rehabilitation Center was fined $1.5 million this summer after an unattended wheelchair-bound patient sustained burns while smoking.

As upsetting as stories about worker negligence, real or alleged, are, features on workers rising to the occasion to save lives are a testament to everyday heroism in the workplace. And AOL Jobs has profiled many such stories. One particularly high-profile incident was from the spring when a police officer in the South American country of Colombia yanked a man out of the way as he was jumping in front of an oncoming train.
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