Metro-East News

State ends investigation into Belleville nursing home death

The Illinois Department of Public Health has completed its investigation into the Belleville nursing home where a woman strapped to a wheelchair died after a fall down a stairway.

State investigators do not plan to immediately release the results of their on-site review at Midwest Rehabilitation and Respiratory, 727 N. 17th St., Belleville, said department spokeswoman Melaney Arnold.

“It will be about two weeks while we review the results and draft the report before it will be available,” Arnold said.

Juanita Simmons, 84, was found at the bottom of a flight of stairs on March 12, strapped to a wheelchair. St. Clair County Coroner Rick Stone said Monday her death was the result of injuries suffered in the fall.

Stone ended his own investigation into the death and found there was no evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

Coroner’s investigators talked to residents and staff and obtained surveillance video taken from the nursing home. Stone said the video showed Simmons sitting in the hall, alone, staring at a soda machine in the early morning hours. Minutes later, she was found at the bottom of the stairs. The fire door blocking the stairs was equipped with an alarm, but it was turned down to a chime instead of an actual alarm, Stone said.

A nurse who worked on the hall where Simmons fell failed to contact police or the coroner’s office because she said nothing like this had happened before and she was scared she was going to lose her job, according to Stone. Her identity was not released.

Simmons’ body was removed by a Montgomery County funeral director, who Stone said was told when he removed the body that the coroner had been there and left.

That funeral director called Stone’s office to inquire whether the coroner’s office or a physician would issue the death certificate. It was then, Stone said, that his office was notified of the death and began its investigation.

Midwest, formerly known as the Calvin Johnson Nursing Home before it was purchased in June 2011, is owned by Senior Healthcare Management in Skokie, near Chicago. Steven Blisko, 34, of Chicago, owns a 60 percent interest in Senior Healthcare Management. Midwest has 180 beds and is one of 13 nursing homes owned by Blisko.

Ten Blisko-owned nursing homes have one-star ratings, including Midwest. These ratings are given by Medicare, which is operated by the federal government. Nursing home ratings are based on health inspections, staffing and quality measures.

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