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Who Cares?

Officials say oversight is improving New Mexico’s troubled nursing homes. The numbers and the lawsuits say otherwise

October 13, 2010, 1:00 am

Today, Henryetta Lewis is still in a wheelchair and still suffers from incontinence. Her full-time caregiver, Rochelle, brings Lewis snacks and cigarettes while she watches TV. Begg helps her with daily chores and is doing all he can to fight her whopping medical bill.

Lewis is glad to be home. 

Dora Vigil never left Casa Real. In April 2009, less than a year after she first entered the nursing home, Vigil fell while trying to get out of bed. According to Georgia Kelly, her niece, Vigil broke her femur—a fact that went unreported for 10 days.

“A nurse called me and said [Vigil] had fallen, and she usually bounces back, but this time she didn’t bounce back, so [the nurse] ordered an X-ray,” Kelly recalls.

Kelly, who lives in Albuquerque, says she packed a bag and headed straight up to Santa Fe to meet Vigil at the hospital.

At St. Vincent, Kelly says, the doctor told her Vigil’s leg had been broken for more than a week and that she would need surgery.

The surgery happened on a Saturday, Kelly says and, though Vigil was “in a lot of pain,” Kelly had to go back to Albuquerque for work. She visited Vigil as much as she could.

“I went back the day before she died,” Kelly says. “She said, ‘Take me back with you. They’re not very nice to me here.’”  SFR

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