On September 27, 2016, Ollie Jo Edmondson’s life abruptly changed forever. Neither she nor her family could have imagined that a simple visit to the hospital for a non-life-threatening illness would take such a drastic turn.
Our story begins on September 26th. On that day, Ms. Edmondson went to Cedar Park Regional Medical Center after complaining of what appeared to be flu like symptoms. Edmondson was accompanied by her adult son and admitted to the emergency room, where she remained stable, and was ultimately diagnosed with pneumonia.
Due to her symptoms and the observations by hospital staff, a yellow arm band was placed on Ms. Edmondson signifying her as a fall risk. A yellow fall risk sign was also placed on the door to her room.
Although she appeared stable, the emergency room physician elected to admit her to the hospital for overnight observation.
After her admission, Mw. Edmondson was taken for X-rays and left unattended. When hospital staff found her, she was found on the ground bleeding and in serious condition. Her condition was so critical that she had to be airlifted to a regional trauma center. At the new hospital, surgeons had to open her skull.
Ollie Jo is alive today but suffers from a permanent brain injury. An injury that could have been prevented. Ms. Edmonson went to the local emergency room complaining of the flu. Due to being left unsupervised and her subsequent fall, she now requires 24 hour care.
Hospitals, Nursing Homes and Preventable Falls
As we age, many people lose their sense of balance and become at increased risk for falls.
Hospitals, nursing homes and adult day care centers are all trained in how identify people at risk of injury from falling. But their obligation doesn’t stop there. Healthcare facilities – particularly those that deal with the elderly – have a legal duty to protect patients at risk of falling.
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality says patient falls are “NEVER EVENTS.” They should never happen. In Texas where Ollie Jo Edmondson fell, injuries from falls are so serious that the state requires they be reported to regulators.
Health care providers are required to immediately report any “patient death or serious injury associated with a fall while being cared for in a hospital setting.” Nursing homes are included in these heightened care standards.
As noted above, a hospital’s duty extends beyond simply identifying patients at risk of falls. Cedar Park Regional Medical Center put a yellow warning placard on Edmondson’s door and even gave her a yellow wrist band. Neither of those warnings were enough, she was apparently left alone in a hallway.
We often hear that nursing homes are understaffed or were particularly busy on the night a tragic incident occurred. Legally, that isn’t a defense. Hospitals and nursing homes have a duty to properly care for at risk patients. (It’s often not the nurses and technicians who are at fault, the facility has the legal duty to maintain adequate staffing and coverage.)
Last week Edmondson filed a lawsuit against Cedar Ridge Health System, the operator of the Cedar Park Regional Medical Center. Our investigation suggests that Cedar Park is a for- profit hospital. It has a complicated ownership structure but behind it all appears to be Community Health Systems, a company that is no stranger to complaints.
The lawsuit accuses Cedar Ridge of several acts of medical malpractice (negligence). The suit says the hospital breached its duty of care owed to her:
- By failing to properly monitor or supervise Ms. Edmondson;
- By failing to take adequate precautions to prevent Ms. Edmondson’s fall;
- By failing to prevent a vulnerable patient from serious injury associated with a fall while being cared for in a healthcare setting;
- By failing to properly assess Ms. Edmondson’s condition;
- By failing to properly train and supervise any agents, employees, servants, and nursing staff when caring for Ms. Edmondson to prevent and protect her from falls and injuries;
- By failing to provide Ms. Edmondson with a safe environment in which to receive treatment and recover;
- By failing to properly and safely transport Ms. Edmondson throughout the hospital;
- By failing to ensure that adequate policies and procedures were in place for hiring, training and supervision of the staff at the hospital;
- By failing to ensure that the person(s) hired to work at the hospital had sufficient understanding of the safety concerns for the patients and was competent to formulate policies and procedures for patient safety and quality assurance; and
- By failing to provide proper medical treatment after Ms. Edmondson’s fall.
The lawsuit was just filed. No answer is due yet from the hospital. Our experience tells us that the hospital will fight rather than pay.
Are you the Victim of a Preventable Fall?
If you or a loved suffered a serious permanent injury or if a loved one lost his or her life because of a fall in nursing home, hospital, rehabilitation facility or adult care facility, call us immediately.
Patient falls are preventable. They should be a thing of the past yet thousands of people suffer serious injury each year from these falls.
Because so-called Never Events are preventable, Medicare will no longer pay for additional costs associated with these incidents. Unfortunately, that doesn’t necessarily help patients since many facilities deny responsibility for these tragic errors.
27 states now mandate reporting of these events. In many states this information is public. If you are worried about a particular facility, check with the state. (Note that in most states only serious injuries or deaths are reportable.)
If you believe you have a claim against a hospital or nursing home for a patient fall injury contact us immediately. All consultations are confidential and no obligation. Depending on where you are located, we or one of our network of hospital / nursing home injury lawyers can assist you.
Don’t rely on the local personal injury lawyer. Suing a hospital or a large nursing home chain is not for the feint hearted. Malpractice insurance carriers will pull all stops to quash these claims potentially leaving the victim with no recourse for future pain and medical expenses.
For more information, use our on line contact form or call us at 833.201.1555.
Are You an Employee at a Facility that is Understaffed?
We believe that the overwhelming majority of healthcare workers are caring people who take pride in their profession. Unfortunately, some greedy companies put profits before patients leaving too few nurses and aides to care for too many patients.
If your facility accepts Medicare or Medicaid, chronic understaffing may be indicative of Medicare Fraud. The federal False Claims Act provides large cash awards for those who step forward with inside information about healthcare fraud.
That same law also protects healthcare workers from retaliation. For more information, use our Medicare Fraud contact form or call us at 833.201.1555.