Medicaid patients’ deaths didn’t prompt state action

  • John Edwards
  • The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
11:41 a.m. Monday, Nov. 20, 2017 Local
In 2012, a diabetic woman with an amputated leg fell out of her wheelchair in this van, operated by a South Georgia company. The passenger lost her left arm as a result of her fall. SPECIAL

Georgia’s Department of Community Health apparently handed down no sanctions against a state contractor after a 58-year-old paraplegic died from falling off a wheelchair lift in May. Before that, there’s no record of sanctions after a 34-year-old double amputee died following a wheelchair spill in 2015.

And so the pattern of avoidable injuries continues within the system charged with giving Medicaid patients free rides to medical appointments, which has subcontracting mom-and-pop transport companies often scrambling to stay afloat financially.

In June, a patient fell backward in her wheelchair as a van pulled out of her dirt driveway, sending her to an ER with serious head injuries, according to a complaint report. The driver was ordered to get re-trained in wheelchair securement before handling any more wheelchair patients. In July, another patient fell out of a wheelchair when a driver braked to make a turn, sending the man to an ER with heavy bleeding from his legs. Again, the driver had to be re-trained.

Why do avoidable injuries keep happening to frail, elderly and vulnerable patients? Why isn’t the state agency in charge taking steps to protect them? Read more about The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s investigation at