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'He reeked of rot.' Family of man who died at McLaren Macomb alleges problems with his care

Posted at 5:02 PM, Jun 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-24 18:19:25-04

(WXYZ) — After a federal agency launched an investigation into McLaren Macomb hospital following a 7 Investigators report, patients and families have been coming forward to share their experiences from inside the hospital. The family of a man from Mt. Clemens reached out to the 7 Investigators to say they have serious concerns about the care that their dad received at the hospital.

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Perry Adams died in February after more than two months in the hospital.

“Just the fact that Dad died suffering, scared and alone and maybe didn’t need to,” said Dr. Katie Montry, a clinical neuropsychologist, about her father.

Katie and her brother, Craig Adams, say they were worried when Perry tested positive for COVID-19 last November. They say he tried fighting the coronavirus for a while at home, but back on December 1, 2020, their dad had to be rushed to McLaren Macomb hospital.

“He was such a potent person, such a distinct personality, and for him to have been allowed to waste away like that is just appalling,” said Craig.

Perry did have underlying health concerns that can impact COVID-19 outcomes, like diabetes and he was overweight. But his children say they’re concerned about an abrupt change in his code status without family approval, an alleged lack of food for their father, and a shortage of communication from the hospital.

“I kept asking the nurses over and over, can you have a doctor call us, we want to know about the treatment plan, or prognosis, or how are his lungs looking,” said Katie.

At the start of his hospital stay, Katie and Craig say COVID-19 restrictions were in place so they could not visit in person to advocate for their dad.

“We did not actually hear from a doctor, at any point, during that first 3 weeks,” said Katie.

Katie says only after she contacted a patient advocate did she hear from a doctor, but it wasn’t his primary doctor.

“He said, ‘well I actually haven’t seen your dad.’ So he had never even laid eyes on my dad yet,” said Katie.

After several weeks, Craig and Katie were finally allowed to visit Perry, and they say they were furious with what they saw and smelled.

“He reeked of rot! It smelled like body rot insanely in that room, made me gag walking in that room,” said Craig.

Craig and Katie said they had to ask that Perry be bathed.

“One of the first things I noticed was on his face, from the BiPAP, he had a big open sore on his nose,” said Katie.

But when Katie asked his doctor about that, she says she was surprised at the answer.

“Is wound care monitoring that wound on his face? I’m worried about that, especially with the diabetes, and she said, ‘Uh, what wound?’” said Katie.

Katie also says she later found out from nurses that her diabetic father sometimes wasn’t eating.

“She said, ‘oh yeah he skipped a couple meals, nutrition has just been really backed up.’ And we were like – so this is actually happening,” said Katie.

Perry’s medical records indicate challenges with food in the hospital.

In at least two notes, the nutrition staff member wrote “awaiting AM food tray still!”

In another record, nutrition said “No data recorded. Have instructed staff to record in EMR (Electronic Medical Records.)"

By the end of January, records indicated that Perry’s “malnutrition is significant.”

Katie says the biggest shock came on January 31, 2021 when a weekend doctor on rounds allegedly hung up on her after saying she was putting Perry on end-of-life palliative care, even though Katie says she’d been told he was stable.

“I said, can we please wait until tomorrow to get a second opinion? I’d like to talk to his primary doctor that’s more familiar with him, before we do anything. And she said ‘no, this decision is out of your hands,’” said Katie. “And she cut me off, and she said, ‘I think you need to process what you’re going through and hung up on me.’”

Craig happened to be visiting their dad at the time and says he saw the doctor slam the phone down, and then she allegedly turned on him.

“She was in my personal space, adrenaline in her voice,” said Craig. “How on earth can you be in somebody’s face like that? You know, it was just appalling.”

The medical records from January 31, 2021 show that Perry’s “code” status changed from full code for all life saving measures to “palliative only.”

But the next day Perry’s children say his primary care doctor gave them a completely different prognosis.

“He’s not in palliative care. They said, ‘no we believe that he still has every chance that he had to begin with,’” said Craig.

Medical records show one of the doctors who was present the day Perry’s code status was changed told the other doctor who talked to the family that he “was not comfortable with [the] change of code status to comfort care/palliative care.” He even asked to have Perry “evaluated re: recovery of [his] lungs” and confirmed with Perry that “he did not want a NO CODE status.”

“How could that have happened? How could a team of doctors let that happen,” said Craig.

Craig and Katie say they took their concerns to McLaren’s Chief Medical Officer, who they say assured them on February 6th that he was looking into everything.

“He’s like, I just checked on your dad, he’s resting comfortably and I’ll keep an eye on him,” said Katie.

But seconds later, right after Katie hung up the phone -- Katie says she got another call from McLaren, telling her that Perry had just died.

“He died alone, by himself,” said Katie through tears. “I think the hardest thing for us is not knowing if he had been somewhere else if he might have made it.”

Katie says she asked for an internal investigation at McLaren Macomb, but says no one has gotten back to her since February. She also filed complaints with the State of Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) and The Joint Commission, which does accreditation for McLaren. Both agencies are currently investigating the hospital for allegations about infection control and cleanliness issues.

Since the start of the pandemic, a spokeswoman for LARA says the state’s Bureau of Community & Health Services has received at least 36 complaints about McLaren Macomb. 27 of those were either closed or referred to a federal or outside agency for further investigation.

At least 7 of those complaints were filed after our original investigation aired in May, including one initiated by the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services because of our reporting. That investigation is underway now.

For a previous story, McLaren Macomb’s President and CEO issued this statement about LARA complaints:

“McLaren Macomb has been made aware of only 2 complaints in the past year that were investigated by LARA. For those 2 complaints, no further action has been requested or required of McLaren Macomb,” said Tom Brisse.

The 7 Investigators requested an interview from McLaren Macomb to discuss Perry Adams. McLaren released a written statement from Dr. Andrew Staricco, Chief Medical Officer, to the 7 Investigators:

“The patient’s family declined to sign the release allowing us to provide details about Mr. Adams’ care. However, I can tell you that I personally reviewed the patient file and I can confirm that appropriate medical care was provided. I shared this information with the family back in February. COVID-19 can be an incredibly devastating disease, especially for those in our community who have multiple chronic health conditions. We encourage everyone who is eligible to consider getting vaccinated as soon as they’re able to do so.”

The Adams family tells the 7 Investigators they did want McLaren to speak to us and potentially other journalists about their dad’s care, but the McLaren media release form would have included McLaren’s ability to talk about their dad’s Personal Health Information on social media. The family asked them to narrow the scope of the language on the release, but the hospital would not do that.

If you have a story for Heather, please email her at hcatallo@wxyz.com