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Outrageous Treatment Of 82-Year-Old By Kaiser;

Judge Sutro Stops Hospital Eviction

By Jim Scanlon

The strange, unusual, 12 month legal struggle between a bedridden 82- year-old San Anselmo woman and the legal department of Kaiser Hospital took an unexpected turn in early November when Superior Court Judge John A. Sutro Jr. stopped legal proceedings by hospital lawyers to evict Sarah Nome from Kaiser's San Rafael hospital.

Nome told the Coastal Post she was greatly relieved and thankful to Judge Sutro for his courtesy and consideration in allowing her to testify and participate in her court hearing by telephone from her hospital bed, and for the ruling which ensures that her life not be endangered while her dispute with Kaiser is worked out through mediation and fact finding.

"He listened," she said, "and he obviously carefully read my case. I could not have asked for more."

Broken Bones

Nome was standing in the kitchen of her San Anselmo home when she heard one loud snap and then another as she fell to the floor. Both her legs broke at the knees. Since she had been a member of Kaiser's health plan from its very beginning, perhaps 40 years ago, she was rushed by ambulance to the Foundation's Terra Linda Hospital where she remained for almost two months. When Kaiser doctors proposed amputating both of her legs she refused and was later transferred to UC Medical Center at Parnassus Heights where surgery was performed which avoided amputations. She spent over a year in two convalescent homes in Marin which were affiliated with Kaiser, until suddenly, in January 2003, for no apparent reason she is aware of, she was forcibly transferred by ambulance back to the Terra Linda hospital. She has been there ever since.

Besides the law suits by Kaiser against Nome, there are law suits by Nome against the convalescent home and Kaiser.

A Broken Agreement?

Nome says she was never told why she was being taken to the hospital from the convalescent facility in the first place and that she will not leave until she can enter a facility she and her daughter approve of. Also at issue is the cost of Nome's hospitalization which is now well over $800,000. Is she covered by her membership in Kaiser's Health Plan as she claims? She calculates she has paid insurance premiums for over 500 months and is still a paid up contributor. She feels she kept her part of the agreement and that all elderly people who think their health costs are covered, should take notice. Kaiser lawyers obviously do not see it that way and want her out.

One Tough Old-Time Marinite

Nome was born in San Anselmo in 1922. Her father was a sea captain who once sailed around Cape Horn. He built the family home in San Anselmo. Sara graduated from Tamalpais High school early, at age 15. She recalled taking the commuter train which started in Woodacre and at ever stop school friends would get on. The students, many of whom went on to become prominent Marinites, chatted, laughed and played cards on the way to Tam.

She married young and spent the World War II years in Manhattan working as a jeweler at the world famous boutique of Cartier Jewelers on 5th Avenue, while her husband served in the Navy. She recalled taking large sums of the firm's cash to deposit in the bank by herself, and once even took the Hope Diamond home to show here husband who was horrified and walked back to the office with her to make sure she didn't lose it. "They were different times" she said. She also worked with Matson Steamship Lines for ten years and visited 88 countries until she became pregnant and had the first of her two children. Later she also worked for other companies associated with the maritime industry in San Francisco.

Nome has two children. She married twice and was widowed twice. She was active in county politics for many years and was considered an outspoken strict fiscal conservative by some, and an outspoken scold by others. She contributed articles to the Coastal Post for many years.

Who Dunnit?

Who actually authorized her hospitalization, and why, is something of a mystery which will now be subject to court review. Nome had complained that she was not properly treated for her leg injuries, that she was improperly medicated, abused and taken by force to the hospital against her will. She and several local senior citizen friends are deeply concerned that frail, elderly, depressed and mentally incapacitated seniors, their heirs and families, are being victimized in probate courts throughout the state. In this regard she sees Judge Sutro's actions as inspiring, positive and protective.

Reprisals By Hospital?

Shortly after the court ruling blocking her eviction, Nome was moved to a private room, the television set was disconnected from the wall and she was informed, in writing, that she would no longer be provided with a daily newspaper. In the event that she had a newspaper delivered, or brought to her, the papers would not be allowed to accumulate for more than a few days. She was not allowed to plug in a small radio into the hospital's electrical system.

How this legal struggle will work out over the next several months is anyone's guess, but it does appear from reviewing the informational letter delivered to Nome by the Chief Operating Officer of the hospital that a hostile, or at least a confrontational living environment has been created for this frail elderly woman. The letter from the Administration begins with the unsupported accusation that Nome assaulted a nursing assistant and then goes on to explain why she will no longer be provided with a daily newspaper or television services etc.

Nome emphasized that she is well cared by hospital staff. "They treat me wonderfully," she said, "The food is OK even if I don't eat much." She says she would like to be somewhere else, and not worry so much about where she will live, and what will happen to her, but she says she really has no where to go.

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