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Prime hospital bills for malnutrition, but patient says she wasn’t treated for it

By Lance Williams, California Watch

As far as Medicare knew, Darlene Courtois fell ill last year with kwashiorkor, a dangerous form of malnutrition usually seen among starving children during African famines.

At least that’s what her hospital claimed in the bill it sent to Medicare, records show.

But Courtois, 64, says she wasn’t treated for malnutrition during the five days she spent at Shasta Regional Medical Center after she was hurt in a fall. She’s overweight, not emaciated, she said.

And she said she never heard the word for the malady – a virulent illness with symptoms including emaciated arms, a distended belly and distinctive swelling of the feet or legs – until asked about it by a reporter.

“It blew me out of the water when I heard they diagnosed me as that,” Courtois, a retired teacher’s aide, said in an interview at her home west of Mount Lassen. “I never heard a doctor or nurse or any other medical personnel tell me I have kwashiorkor.”

The former patient’s account is supported by Medicare and hospital records reviewed by California Watch, but disputed by Prime Healthcare Services, which owns 14 California hospitals, including the 246-bed facility in Redding.

Read the complete story at California Watch.