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Family Sues Hospital After 8-Hour ER Wait Killed Husband

Family Sues Hospital After 8-Hour ER Wait Killed Husband

Arizona Daily Star

December 01, 2008

A woman’s lawsuit against St. Mary’s Hospital over her husband’s death, which occurred after an eight-hour wait in the emergency room, is set for trial next year.

In Pima County Superior Court, Judge John F. Kelly has set Sept. 22 as the date for a jury to hear Rachel Sweitzer’s case. In the lawsuit, Sweitzer says negligence and reckless disregard by the hospital staff led to the death of her husband, Robert Sweitzer, 39. In court documents, St. Mary’s Hospital has denied any negligence or wrongdoing in Sweitzer’s Feb. 10 death.

A report by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Sweitzer died at St. Mary’s of “necrotizing pneumonia” caused by a common bacterium, Staphylococcus aureus.

County Medical Examiner Bruce Parks has said it appears that Sweitzer died of a particularly virulent form of staph known as MRSA, which stands for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.

MRSA, often called a “superbug,” is growing in prevalence across the country and doesn’t respond to penicillins and cephalosporins, the class of drugs normally used to treat staph infections. However, it can be treated with specialized “second-line” antibiotics.

On Feb. 9, Robert Sweitzer felt he was coming down with a cold, with coughing and loss of energy. He also was suffering intense pain in his lower back. When he started breathing hard, the Sweitzers went to St. Mary’s ER at 6:30 p.m., his wife has said. It was packed, during the start of Tucson’s severe flu outbreak.

At 7 p.m. he was called for triage, a preliminary assessment of the severity of his symptoms. His vital signs were stable. He was assessed as needing a low level of care, hospital officials have said. Rachel Sweitzer has said his condition was never reassessed in the next eight hours.

© YellowBrix Inc.


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  • Me2_max50

    jgrace79

    almost 6 years ago

    6 comments

    As unfortunate as this is, it is easy to see how it could happen. I also have to ask, did the wife say anything to the triage nurse? When there are 30+ people in the WR it is impossible for 1-2 people to watch and monitor everyone's condition. I work in an ED that is alwyas busy like that, especially in the winter. The last day I worked triage there was a 6-8 hour wait and no beds in the house and no open rooms in the ED. there were patients in the hallway who were being admitted to the house that had no beds. I do agree though, that if there were a way to keep patients from using the ED as an MD office, then the long waits for attention to real emergencies would bed lessened. The downside to working in a low-income ED is that no one has money to pay co-pays at the urgent care down the block which is plenty good-enough to treat their 6 kids with the sniffles or the 7mo old with a fever (just cuz she feels hot, since they don't own a thermometer so never actually took a temp) that mom never gave any tylenol or motrin to, or the 6yr old whose mom brought her in with "vomiting" x1 the day before while the kid is eating flaming hot cheeto's and drinking a coke in my triage room. The MD offices are not much better. Due to liabilities they have to tell these people to go to the nearest ED if they get worse or don't think they can wait 24v hours. Well, people who are impatient and don't understand that it takes a while to get better also are clogging up the ED with things that could wait 24 hours to see an MD in office, and are expceting the magic cure in the ED. These people who are awaiting the magic ED cure also don't seem to understand that people who come in by ambulance not breathing or in immediate life threattening situations take priority, no matter how many times we tell them, they don't get it.
    And as for people thinking that the RN's are rude, how do you think you would act if you were in charge of the care of 4 critically ill patients and the ambulances keep droppin another patient in your hallway every 30-60 min and you just can hardly keep up without drowning? I would be willing to bet that those RN's aren't being rude on purpose, but that they are exasperated and exhausted after running 12 hours the day before and back to it again today and never getting a break because there is just not enough staff or space to care for all of the people who need it.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    hithere

    almost 6 years ago

    4 comments

    hmm so many issues. .. short staffing. . .patients should always be re-evaled but when the triage never stops it's hard to get there to do it. . .on the other hand triage isn't always well done and having sat for 8 hours in the waiting area with a husband who only went to the ed because I told him he would likely be intubated if he waited to see his pcp on Monday When he was decompensating I sat him in front t of the triage area in a wc saying "airway-breathing-circulation" to their "there aren't any open stretchers" This system is broken. They ultimately apologized profusely when he was tripoding and gasping but that isn't acceptable. the $$ have to be properly allocated and nurses need to use their professional voices to advocate for themselves and their patients.

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    hithere

    almost 6 years ago

    4 comments

    hmm issues $$$ short staff, education, poor use of the ED, attitudes . . .
    When the triage never stops it's hard to do the needed re-evaluations. . . I have seen at least on ed in which the nurses never saw the patients they were responsible for before residents discharged them. process and organization. . .
    I sat for 8 hours in the waiting room with a husband I had told wold be intubated if he waited to see his pcp on monday. . .he ahad done everything he could and was continuing to get worse. after 8 hours he was in really serious shape. I sat him in front of triage and kept repeating the ABC to their every excuse. When he was tri-podding and gasping after the third respiratory treatment. . .They didn't stop apologizing but it's too late then . . . They were so overwhelmed that thy couldn't see the individuals just the mass and they were numbed to the possibilities by the stress of their demands. . .It is a sad broken system and time nurses stopped looking at money alone and started looking professional expectations of their work environments and their acceptance of unacceptable practice demands

  • Rsz_hpim2283a_max50

    crys5881

    almost 6 years ago

    32 comments

    WOW is all I can say. How sad, but I really can see it happening.

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    wanda505

    almost 6 years ago

    2 comments

    My dad was at the ER (nyc) 2 months ago for dehydration (he passed away this October of colon cancer) and I have to tell you that ER places are nightmares. My dad was vomiting so much that that we had no choice but to take him to the ER because his regular doctor was in the middle of an operation. When we arrived, we thought that he was going to be taken care of immediately. Well, I have to tell you that I had no idea how horrible ERs are when they're bigger. I thought that bigger hospital facilities meant better service. Boy was I wrong!! We waited in the ER forever before we could get help. I was very concerned because he needed to get attended to immediately and no matter how many times I went to the staff members, they just kept nodding their heads and kept telling me that they were understaffed and to PLEASE BE PATIENT. Patient??? I was there for HOURS!! I walked throughout the ER room and politely went up to a physician and told him about my dad's condition and that he had colon cancer and that no IV had been placed on him. He completely ignored me. I asked several nurses and was told that the nurse from the area was out to lunch. That nurse was out to lunch beyond 2 hours!!! There was a woman next to my dad screaming for hours because she was having severe head pain. No one came by to check up on her. Across me was an old lady who was in so much pain that she was vomiting constantly. A nurse came by and dropped a bucket and kept on going. That nurse didn't even bother to speak to the patient or check her. The nurse pushed the bed closer to the wall and continued her business. I couldn't believe it. There were hundreds of patients all over the place and so little staff. There were patients being tended to in the hallway because the ER was full to capacity. Some old man walked in bleeding profusely from his head. I said to myself, "Good luck old man..grab a bed and hang out just like we are". I could hear so many people crying and screaming for hours that it was literally driving me insane. I remember an old lady was screaming at the nurses because she said that she couldn't believe that despite having insurance she had been in the ER for so many hours and had not been tended to at all. I felt so sorry for her because she had no one accompanying her. About 4 hours later, I spotted another nurse and told him that my dad really needed an IV because he had been throwing up alot. He softened up and said that he'd come by even though it wasn't his area. My dad ended up sleeping over at the ER for the rest of the evening until the following morning because there was no room available. My dad was fortunate that I was there and that I was persistant on him getting seen. I agree with Trkrantz. I have come across many rude nurses but I bite back and have reported them a.s.a.p. I don't play games and I let them know that I'll contact Patient Representative and the CEO. I did it 2 months ago and I told the head nurse that I was going to report her to Patient Representative and the CEO. You have no idea how quick the problem was resolved. There's absolutely no reason whatsoever for a nurse to feel that they need to mistreat a patient because they're having a bad day. They chose that career and they should be sensitive to the patient's needs. I understand that there are patients that are violent and nasty but that doesn't give them the right to mistreat all patients because of a few. I agree with RudyV about layoffs and a shortage of staff but some nurses need sensitivity training. Anyway, going back to the topic, my heart goes out to the Sweitzer family for their loss.

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    KnowledgeableRN

    almost 6 years ago

    4 comments

    Why did the man wait so long before going to the hospital? He had to have had symptoms at least 3 days before Feb. 10th which would make him feel like he had the "flu." So why die he not go see his PCP to get on meds. to make him feel better before it got so bad. If he had stable vital signs in triage, no one in the ER would suspect he would change for the worse due to the other 20-30 pts. in ER like him. Even his wife stated how busy the ER was when they arrived. If the wife thought he was getting worse while they were waiting, why did she not go tell the triage nurse to have him re-evaluated again. The man just did not develop MRSA while he was at the ER. He has been very ill for awhile with it before he came to the ER. So who was taking care of him at home is the one that is negligent, not the ER. If the public would use their PCP or even try to find one, the ER would not be so packed with the flu and cold season illnesses. So how many times did the wife go for assistance when she thought her husband was geeting worse? Nothing is mentioned about this at all. I feel sorry for the family, but I feel they could have done more for the patient by taking him to a PCP days before going to a very busy ER dept.

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    AbusyRN2go

    almost 6 years ago

    13874 comments

    If he started to get worse he should have been evaluated again not eight hours later, it is not clear if he got worse in a matter of minutes or hours?? If minutes which probably did not happen then not much could have been done BUT hours then the wife should have been screaming her head off, I would have had the CEO out of bed if it was MY family member.

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    RudyV

    almost 6 years ago

    2 comments

    I work in a busy ER in NYC, and yes, many people do the ED (emerg dept ) as a doctors office; often times they are the ones that cause the overcrowding as the real emergencies go un-checked or get delayed because of them. I do feel very sorry for this family and I do wish things were different. Hospital closings and layoffs surely will make this problem a much common occurance and I really do not know if there is a solution to this problem that is already part of our society and healthcare norms.

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    mramsey40

    almost 6 years ago

    422 comments

    There is not enough information to tell what really happened. I used to work in that facility when I lived in Tucson and I can tell you from personal experience if the woman had said something, they would have acted upon it quickly. St. Mary's is not considered a trauma hospital but is the oldest and the busiest in the city over University of Arizona down the road. They are known to get the "drop-offs" for the gang shootings in the city. There is no way the nurses would have known the person had MRSA. I feel for the family, but unfortunately in today's economy, people are using the ER as their doctor office

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    laura59

    almost 6 years ago

    408 comments

    I've seen ordinarily good nurses become a little testy when they were doing their job and someone else's too. Call ins in the ER are a regular thing and something should be done just because it is an ER, but we all know how that goes. The ER should have plenty of people on call, but they are always short staffed. $$$$ rules, so the patients suffer. However, anyone bringing in a patient in real distress should be brave enough to open their mouth.

  • Tammy_christmas_2002_max50

    Trkrantz

    almost 6 years ago

    44 comments

    That is really sad. Hospitals are getting so bad lately. I remember I went to a hospital here in town last year and the ER staff was really rude to me. The triage nurse told me that it would be a 4-6 hour wait but I was called back in about 1 1/2 hours. Then the nurse in the back was even rude to me. I just don't understand why people become nurses when they don't even care about the patients anymore.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    nursingaround

    almost 6 years ago

    30 comments

    Need more info, like the comment before said, did the family let the nurses know he was deteriorating?

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    laura59

    almost 6 years ago

    408 comments

    How many times, if any, did the wife notify hospital staff that her husband's condition was deteriorating during that 8 hour period???

  • Mickeymouseclubhouse_240_max50

    kstiltner1

    almost 6 years ago

    7170 comments

    Everyone uses the ED for their MD.

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