Family Says Elderly Man Died After Ambulance Company Dropped Him Off at Wrong House

Last June, Juan Rivero's family moved him to Victoria Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, a highly rated nursing home in Little Havana. At 80 years old, Rivero had severe dementia, renal disease, and acute respiratory problems requiring oxygen treatment. His son Cecilio wanted to make sure Rivero would be given the proper care and attention.

A few times a week, the ambulance company MCT Express picked Rivero up at the nursing home and took him to a dialysis center for treatment. But June 30 — just four days after the elderly man moved to Victoria — MCT's drivers inexplicably dropped him off at the home of his mentally ill daughter after picking him up from the dialysis center, his family says.

By the time the nursing home and transport company discovered the mistake, Rivero was dead.

Those allegations are spelled out in a heartbreaking lawsuit from Rivero's son, filed late last month in Miami-Dade Circuit Court. Neither MCT nor Victoria responded to a request for comment on the claims.

Rivero had been living with his daughter at one point last summer but moved into the nursing home after it became clear she couldn't properly care for him or even herself, his family says. Around that time, a doctor diagnosed him with severe dementia, a condition so pronounced the doctor couldn't even get Rivero to answer basic questions about his family medical history.

The ambulance company also seemed to be aware of this fact, the lawsuit alleges. Records from MCT indicate that the day before the mixup, Rivero was acting "confused" during the ride to the dialysis center.

Yet the very next day, drivers for the company dropped the clearly sick man at his daughter's home rather than returning him to the nursing home where they had picked him up earlier that morning, the lawsuit says.

Later that day, employees at Victoria noticed Rivero had not returned and eventually learned from MCT that he had been dropped off at his daughter's house. But according to the lawsuit, neither party called 911 to report Rivero missing.

"They're making all these phone calls, but I don’t understand why they didn't call 911," says Scott Fischer, the family's attorney. "Why didn't they take the 30 seconds to call 911?"

Instead, it was the family that called 911 the next morning to help find Rivero. But by the time police and emergency workers arrived at his daughter's home July 1, he was dead.

Fischer says Rivero's death certificate indicates he died of cardiorespiratory arrest, likely because he didn't have access to an oxygen tank at his daughter's house.

"He had breathing problems, he had kidney problems, and he needed to be at a place where he was being observed," Fischer says.

The family's suit accuses both Victoria and MCT in the wrongful death of Rivero.

"When you entrust a nursing home, they're supposed to be professional and take care of people," Fischer says. "These types of things shouldn't happen."
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Jessica Lipscomb is the former news editor of Miami New Times.