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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.

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