Syracuse, New York, hospital named in wrongful death lawsuit

A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed against St. Joseph's Hospital Health Center in Syracuse by an Auburn woman who claims the hospital is responsible for causing her husband's death. The lawsuit alleges that the hospital failed to properly monitor the 88-year-old patient who had a history of falling and that failure caused the patient to fall and injure himself which ultimately lead to his death.

The lawsuit also alleges an anesthesiologist's delay in responding to the emergency call after the patient's fall contributed to the man's death because it caused the patient to be deprived of oxygen to the brain. The patient had pulmonary hypertension and was admitted into the hospital on June 1st of 2011 for treatment of shortness of breath and dizziness that was associated with his condition.

Although the patient had a history of falling and was considered to be at a high risk for falls the hospital did not issue him an orange bracelet that alerts staff members to this problem. The patient was also required to have nursing assistance to go to the restroom and the lawsuit claims that a registered nurse who was assisting the patient on June 3rd turned away for a moment and that was when the patient fell.

Although the nurse immediately called for a cardiopulmonary resuscitation team there was no response from an anesthesiologist. Because blood was obstructing the man's airways a respiratory therapist was unable to intubate the patient and an anesthesiologist was again paged and called on a cellular phone. More than 15 minutes had passed since the patient had fallen and was intubated resulting in him suffering from a lack of oxygen.

The patient died the next day after he suffered a seizure. According to the attorney representing the plaintiff both the fall and the subsequent deprivation of oxygen directly contributed to the man's death. The attorney also stated the claims in the wrongful death lawsuit came directly from State's Department of Health findings that listed a number of violations found at the hospital in this patient's case.

One of those violations included the nurse assisting the patient had not attended the required training regarding the hospital's new policy and procedures designed to reduce patient falls. Those procedures were established in February and the patient fell in early June. The nurse found the patient to be unresponsive after the fall bleeding profusely from a facial gash suffered in the fall.

The wrongful death suit is seeking unspecified compensatory as well as punitive damages.

Source: The Post-Standard, "St. Joseph's Hospital faces lawsuit in Auburn man's fall and death," Jim O'Hara, Jan. 24, 2013

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