Lax Safety Blamed in Deadly Conn. Nursing Home Fire

July 19, 2004

Lax safety standards and inaccurate information about fire drills contributed to the deaths of 16 people in a fire at a Hartford, Conn. nursing home last year, federal investigators say.

A report issuedby the U.S. Government Accountability Office also faulted the staff of the Greenwood Health Center for failing to properly apply the nursing home’s fire response plan, particularly by not shutting doors to patients’ rooms after the fire started.

“Inadequate staff response contributed to the loss of life in the Hartford fire,” the report said.

The Feb. 26, 2003, blaze killed 10 nursing home patients and residents, many of whom were too old or incapacitated to save themselves. Six hospitalized patients died in the weeks following the fire.

Authorities say the fire was set by a mentally disturbed patient, Lesley Andino, who was flicking a cigarette lighter to see if it worked. A blanket caught fire, starting the blaze.

Andino, 24, faces 16 counts of arson murder in connection with the blaze. State psychologists are trying to determine if she is competent to stand trial.

Greenwood is under new management and has since been renamed the Park Place Health Center.

Lexington Highgreen Holding Inc., the management company that operated the Greenwood facility at the time of the fire, has since declared bankruptcy. The home is now operated by Spectrum Healthcare LLC of Vernon.

Calls seeking comment at the office and home of Howard Dickstein, the company’s president and chief executive, were not immediately returned Saturday.

The investigation conducted by the Government Accountability Office, the federal government’s investigative branch formerly known as the General Accounting Office, said Greenwood staff members provided inaccurate information to fire inspectors about how often fire drills were conducted among the night staff. The fire broke out at about 3:30 a.m.

The Greenwood facility lacked sprinklers and smoke detectors in patients’ rooms, but they were not required. Spectrum, which has reopened the fire-damaged wing, has put in place those and other fire-safety measures.

Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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