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Accountability sought in death of vet left in extreme heat

Former Nevada legislator and longtime optometrist Robert Robinson died less than three weeks after being left outside in extreme heat by staff at the Nevada State Veterans Home in Boulder City.

The 89-year-old man suffered second-degree burns on his legs and other parts of his body while sitting in his wheelchair wearing only shorts during the height of summer, family members said Monday.

The cause of death on Robinson’s death certificate includes “sepsis, cellulitis, cutaneous burns and prolonged environmental heat exposure.”

The family plans to sue the facility.

“It’s just unacceptable,” Robinson’s grandson, Craig Robinson, said Monday. “I would like those who were responsible to be held accountable.”

The family has hired attorneys Gerald Gillock and John Funk with the Law Office of Gerald I. Gillock & Associates.

Gillock said a lawsuit probably will be filed within 30 days in District Court. They are waiting for the final report from the Clark County coroner’s office.

The coroner’s office is conducting a neurological analysis, said Betty Robinson, Robert Robinson’s widow.

Funk said the final report could help determine how long the veteran was left in the sun.

Robinson’s case is one of several incidents that placed residents in harm’s way at the only state-run nursing home for veterans. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported earlier this month that the incidents were substantiated by state investigators.

The facility is being investigated by the Nevada attorney general’s office.

Gov. Brian Sandoval “is aware of the incident and is deeply concerned about this tragic loss of life,” said Mary-Sarah Kinner on Monday. Kinner, the governor’s communication director, said Sandoval was unavailable for an interview.

“While some disciplinary actions have already occurred, the governor is receiving regular updates and may take additional action to ensure that such a tragedy does not happen again,” she said in a statement.

The Boulder City Police Department was contacted by the coroner’s office after Robert Robinson died July 31, Detective Sgt. John Glenn said. He contacted the attorney general’s office Aug. 1.

Initially, the agencies planned to conduct a joint investigation, but the attorney general’s office decided to handle the case alone, so no investigation was opened by the department, Glenn said.

The police department responds to calls from the veterans home, but nothing this extreme has been reported before, he said, adding that the department did not receive a call about Robinson’s injuries before he died.

Robert Robinson had been at the veterans home since March.

Betty Robinson said he had not suffered any other injuries that she knew of before being left outside July 15.

The same day, he was transferred to a hospital in Boulder City.

Staff at the veterans home told the family he had been left outside for about 15 minutes. They later said he had been outside for a maximum of 20 minutes, Craig Robinson said.

But hospital staff told the family, “You don’t get those types of burns in 15 minutes,” Betty Robinson said.

According to Craig Robinson, the burns were so bad that doctors couldn’t do much and his grandfather needed a skin graft, which he wouldn’t have been able to survive because of his age.

The facility was aware that the veteran, who suffered from dementia, liked to wander, his wife said. But the facility did not have a policy in place outlining excessive heat precautions, according to documents from an August state investigation.

The certified nursing assistant who was assigned to monitor Robinson also did not provide adequate supervision and was later dismissed from the facility, according to the investigation documents.

Corrective measures at the facility were taken and included a new policy on excessive heat precautions, according to an improvement plan written by veterans home staff and submitted to the state earlier this year.

Clinical staff were trained to provide adequate supervision and prevent accidents. The certified nursing assistant job requirements were revised to include safety measures and accountability. Renovations were made to the patio where Robinson suffered exposure.

Other incidents placing residents in harm’s way were substantiated by investigators in recent months, including that of a resident who was given medication without family consent. Another resident was struck by his visiting wife, who also slapped another resident. Police weren’t called, and nothing was done for two days.

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