Staff re-trained following death at Marion group home

Woman died of hyperthermia following facility treatment for bed bugs

Published: January 30 2014 | 4:00 pm - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 2:55 am in

MARION — A Marion group home has re-trained staff and changed several other policies after a mentally disabled woman overheated and died last summer shortly after the facility was treated for bed bugs.

According to state records, 61-year-old Rhonda Sue Skoog, a resident at the 29th Street Crest Group Home in Marion, was found dead on Aug. 30, the morning after the group home had been heat-treated for bedbug infestation. State records and a death certificate indicate Skoog died of hyperthermia, which is caused by elevated body temperature. Skoog's body temperature was 107.3 degrees four hours after she was found by staff, according to the autopsy.

Skoog had a form of hypertension that can cause problems with body temperature control, and was taking at least two medications that can make it hard for the body to cool down when it is hot. A physical performed a little over a month before the incident indicated the resident was otherwise a healthy 61-year-old, records said.

Staff notes also indicated Skoog had no complaints of feeling ill or overheated up until returning to the home after the bed bug treatment.

The 29th Street Crest Group Home, 1210 29th Street,  was cited with a Class I violation, and fined $10,000 in connection with the incident.

The heat-treatment was conducted throughout the day on Aug. 29 by a pest control company. According to the report, the home was sealed and heated up to at least 125 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour using a hose that forced hot air in using a propane fueled heater. The crew left at 4:55 p.m. and the home's staff and residents (including Skoog) waited at another home during the process, returning at 6:30 p.m. The pest control crew recommended residents not return to the home until at least two and a half hours after the heat-treatment.

After returning to the home, records said staff felt it was still too hot so they turned on the air conditioning, opened the windows, and kept residents outside on a deck until 7:30 p.m., at which point Skoog began complaining about the heat. Records say Skoog sat in the basement with other residents for awhile to cool down and was offered water to drink and an ice-pack, which she used. One staff member said Skoog's face appeared flushed at that time. Records said staff and housemates tried to convince her to take a cool shower three times, but she declined.

Skoog went to bed around 10 p.m., getting up once to get a drink of water and complain about the heat. She was found dead around 6:30 a.m. the next morning.

Jan Caldwell, Crest Services Director, said the home no longer allows anyone to go back into a home that has been heat-treated for bed bugs for at least 24 hours has conducted additional training with staff regarding medications and side effects, and is having a pharmacist come in to conduct additional staff training following the incident.

In addition to being kept in the basement and offered ice packs and water, Caldwell said said each resident  had a fan in his or her bedroom pointed to the bed, and the air conditioning was on at the time of the incident.

"It was an unfortunate incident and we're doing everything we can and have made changes so it won't happen again," Caldwell said Thursday afternoon.

She said the group homes are treated as-needed, and are not treated for bed bugs on a regular basis.

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