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State cites Pittsburgh nursing home in death of lawmaker's father

Wes Venteicher
| Friday, Nov. 10, 2017, 4:06 p.m.
Robert Frankel
Robert Frankel

A Pittsburgh nursing home's improper use of the side rails on a bed contributed to 89-year-old Robert Frankel's death there in September, according to a state Health Department citation.

Frankel, the father of state Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Squirrel Hill, was found dead Sept. 17 in a room at Charles Morris Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Squirrel Hill. His head was caught between a side rail and the bed's mattress, according to the health department report.

The Allegheny County Medical Examiner ruled the death an accident.

The nursing home turned down all the rails in the facility within an hour of the event, according to the report, and the center has removed all bed rails in the facility since then, Phil Ricci, the center's administrator, said in a statement.

“The well-being of both our residents and their families has always been — and always will be — our top priority,” Ricci said in the statement. “We remain focused on constant improvements to deliver on this promise, which is why we are introducing new approaches aimed at helping our residents to remain mobile and safe at the same time.”

Frankel was admitted with health conditions including Alzheimer's disease and severe cognitive impairment, according to the report, which doesn't name him. A care plan from 2015 said he needed bed rails due to impaired physical mobility but that staff members should continue to assess his ability to use the rails.

In June of this year, contractures in his left hand led staff to splint it, according to the report. His ability to use the side rails should have been reassessed after the hand problems, an unidentified nursing director from the home said in an interview with inspectors, according to the report.

The Allegheny County District Attorney's Office is reviewing information on the death that was forwarded by Pittsburgh police, a spokesman said.

Rep. Frankel did not respond to a request for comment Friday.

Wes Venteicher is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-380-5676, or via Twitter @wesventeicher.

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