A 67-year-old man died with a core temperature of 107 degrees after being left outside at a Tucson long-term-care home for more than an hour, a state investigation has found.
An Arizona Department of Health Services report faults the facility - Sabino Canyon Rehabilitation & Care Center, 5830 E. Pima St. - for inadequate supervision of Joseph Oliver, a Tucson resident of more than 30 years, and a father and grandfather.
Investigators say the facility left Oliver outside in his wheelchair in triple-digit heat between 1:30 and 2:45 p.m. on June 18 without adequate supervision, "and, as a result, the resident died."
Staff are supposed to check on residents every five to 30 minutes when they are outdoors, says the state review, which based its findings on interviews with employees.
A Tucson Police Department report says it was unclear whether Oliver was sitting in a shaded area or in the sun when he was outside. Police said that based on an initial investigation it is unlikely criminal charges will be filed.
Sabino Canyon Rehabilitation & Care Center administrator Christie Jones said Monday that her facility plans to file a response to the state report, and can't answer specific questions about the incident due to patient privacy.
"As the administrator of Sabino, I remain entirely supportive of the staff and the way in which care is delivered to residents in our community," Jones said.
Oliver, a retiree, was admitted to the facility on May 4 with various ailments, including a right knee ulcer, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and depression, the report says. The report refers to Oliver only as "resident number one," but family members confirmed his identity.
"We believe this is a case of obvious neglect," said Michael F. McNamara, a Tucson attorney representing Oliver's family. "Arizona has laws specifically intended to protect vulnerable adults in these types of circumstances."
Oliver left the facility twice to get treatment after he fell and hurt his knee and was readmitted June 7. He was taking pain medication at the time of his death. A smoker, Oliver had a history of going outside for smoking breaks, his records show.
On the morning of June 18, a staff note says, Oliver reported a high level of pain. Another note says a staff member was notified at 2:45 p.m. that Oliver was outside. The employee found Oliver in his wheelchair outside. The report says he was able to blink his eyes and move his head slightly though his pulse was "thready."
The report says he was wheeled inside where he was unresponsive and not breathing.
A hospital report obtained by the state said Oliver was suffering cardiac arrest, respiratory arrest and hyperthermia when he was admitted and that his rectal temperature was 107.3 degrees.
Life support was withdrawn on June 19, the records say.
Oliver, who was divorced, had three sons and eight grandchildren. He had careers as a roofer and then as the owner of a scrap metal business, his family's attorney said.
The high in Tucson on June 18 was 105, according to the National Weather Service. The state report says it was 102 degrees and based that number on reports from the Weather Channel.
The state's health-licensing department has no history of sanctioning Sabino Canyon Rehabilitation and Care Center for violations of long-term-care rules and regulations since 2009, which is the most recent data available. The state ranks the facility as "A" for excellent.
Contact reporter Stephanie Innes at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4134.