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State Official Gives Emergency Order To Move Dozens From Beatrice Facility
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
February 3, 2009

BEATRICE, NEBRASKA--Nebraska's Chief Medical Officer on Monday ordered 35 to 40 people to be immediately transferred from Beatrice State Developmental Center to nearby hospitals for their own health and safety.

"It is my medical opinion that BSDC can no longer care for individuals with complex medical needs," said Dr. Joann Schaefer, as she ordered the state to transport all "medically fragile" residents to local medical centers by the end of week.

Schaefer's emergency order came following the news that four residents with developmental disabilities died during the month of January.

One of those, 18-year-old Olivia Manes, reportedly died early on January 16 after experiencing a nearly two-hour long epileptic seizure. Investigators found that staff were slow to call for help, that a nurse failed more than once to properly assess Manes' condition, and repeatedly left Manes with staff that were not trained to deal with seizures.

Officials said Maine's seizure, the first since 1999, was likely caused by her 106-degree body temperature and pneumonia.

"Right now, we're looking in the areas of medical negligence," Dr. Schaefer said in a Monday press conference.

Governor Dave Heineman said in a statement that he was in full support of Dr. Schaefer's medical opinion and action.

Community advocates, including the Nebraska Advocacy Services, have long been calling for the closure of BSDC, citing ongoing problems with the treatment of people who are housed there.

Last year, investigators with the U.S. Department of Justice reported that they had reason to believe that BSDC residents "were being subjected to conditions that deprived them of their legal rights and of their rights, privileges, and immunities secured by the Constitution of the United States." They included numerous examples of abuse, neglect, overuse of restraints, documentation problems, poor medical care, and lack of follow-through when problems were found.

Separately, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services withheld more than $28 million in federal funds in December 2007 after inspectors found four violations related to the health and safety of residents, and three situations that presented immediate risk to residents.

About 200 residents without serious medical conditions are to remain at the facility for now.

"'Medically fragile' being moved from Beatrice center" (Omaha World-Herald)
"Beatrice State Developmental Center" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)

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