FORT SMITH, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — By the time a nursing home resident could say two words about her deteriorating health, “it burned,” it was too late as she died the following day, April 27, 2020.

Belinda Kay Burns, 56, of Fort Smith, may have been indicating that the “burn” was ants that ravaged her body. Fort Smith Emergency Medical Services (EMS) arrived the previous day to take her to Mercy Hospital ER.

EMS removed the sheet covering and the entire left side of her body was covered in ants. The ants were crawling up her catheter and between her legs, according to the complaint filed in the Circuit Court of Sebastian County.

Her widow, Thomas Burns, filed a medical malpractice/wrongful death lawsuit against Methodist Nursing Home of Fort Smith, Inc., (d/b/a Methodist Health and Rehab and Methodist Village Senior Living) on March 29, 2021. Burns is represented by Little Rock attorney Bob Edwards. Edwards has handled several cases involving victims of nursing home abuse and negligence, according to his website.

Belinda Kay Burns, court complaint details:

Belinda Kay Burns lived at Methodist Health and Rehab in Fort Smith located on Euper Lane. She was admitted twice, right at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic — March 5 to April 6, 2020, and from April 10 through 26, 2020.

Belinda was mentally competent, but could not independently provide for all of her daily care and personal needs without assistance. When she entered the home she weighed 150 pounds, was alert and oriented. She was there for short-term rehabilitation and was expected to return home.

After one week, things changed for the worse. By the second week, there were more drastic changes. By April 6, 2020, her condition had deteriorated further and she was transferred to Mercy Hospital in Fort Smith where she stayed for four days for an evaluation, according to the court documents.

She complained of chest pain, upset, crying, hypotensive, and was pale.

While at the hospital, it was determined that she had sepsis and in septic shock from a urinary tract infection. She was placed on antibiotics and other medications.

She returned to Methodist Health and Rehab on April 10, 2020 — stable, but in a weak condition.

From April 22 to the 24th, her condition continued to deteriorate, she still had low blood pressure (hypotension) and was slurring her words.

On April 26th, Belinda complained of pain and was jaundiced. An order was received to send her back to Mercy Hospital ER.

“It burned,” said Belinda.

When Fort Smith EMS arrived they removed the sheet covering her body and Belinda’s entire left side was covered in ants. The ants were crawling up her catheter tube and between her legs. EMS noted she had sores around her lips, face, and open sores in her perineum area.

EMS records indicated Methodist Nursing Home staff didn’t have an inkling about the ants in her room, according to the court documents.

Belinda was hypotensive and lethargic when she arrived at Mercy Hospital and was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in, “hemorrhagic shock due to a GI bleed.”

Belinda died from sepsis the following day, April 27, 2020.

The lawsuit states Belinda had numerous injuries while at the home.

  • Ants swarming her body;
  • Ants going up to her foley catheter tube;
  • Ants between her legs;
  • Sores on her lips, on her face, and in her perineum area;
  • Urinary tract infection;
  • Malnourishment;
  • Skin breakdowns, tears, and pressure ulcers;
  • Severe sepsis;
  • Other injuries and neglect noted in the chart and subsequent records by providers other than Methodist Nursing Home.

Arkansas Advocates for Nursing Home Residents (AANHR) President Martha Deaver got a call from Thomas Burns, “he was devastated and did not know where to turn,” said Deavers, “what happened to his beloved wife was appalling.”

Deaver has received hundreds of phone calls throughout the last year and a half, because of the infection laws that were not followed and the neglect and abuse.

“It’s something most citizens would not believe what happens at some facilities,” Deaver said.

Families are nursing home residents’ biggest advocates. When they are isolated from their loved ones in these facilities, abuse and neglect can be much more prevalent.


There are 145 certified beds and the agency participates in Medicare and Medicaid at the for-profit skilled nursing facility in Fort Smith.

The agency was fined nearly $27,000 and received a payment suspension in May 2019. Two other fines were issued in 2017 for a total of nearly $29,000 involving patient neglect, according to a government website.

The survey states, in part, that on May 5, at 4 a.m., a resident wandered out of the building and entered the adjacent Assisted Living building. Staff at the Assisted Living location said the man was cooperative and that he stated, “I need a ride to the drug store.” This resident was known to roam at night and staff was advised to better secure the exits and alarms. FULL REPORT BELOW.

Calls were made to Methodist Nursing Home of Fort Smith for comment were unsuccessful.