Nursing staff negligence of ventilator alarm led to death of elderly patient

20161231080000, Vi-Jean Khoo
The accused nurses failed to respond to the patient’s ventilator alarm in a timely manner, resulting in her death
Two registered nurses and a nurse aide from a nursing home in Long Island have been arrested and charged for endangering and neglecting an 81-year-old patient, which allegedly resulted in her death.

“These allegations paint a picture of blatant neglect that ultimately resulted in the death of a patient,” said Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

“My office will always hold accountable those medical professionals and others who knowingly ignore a patient’s basic needs or recklessly place any nursing home resident in a life-threatening situation.”

Nursing staff ignored ventilator alarms

The unnamed elderly victim was a resident of the A. Holly Patterson Extended Care Facility where registered nurses 57-year-old Annieamma Augustine and 42-year-old Sijimole Reji, as well as certified nurse aide, 41-year-old Martine Moreland, were working.

The resident was wheelchair-bound, dependent on a specialised ventilator unit, and was entirely reliant on the care by nursing staff.

On the morning of 20 December 2015, she allegedly became disconnected from her ventilator.

The defendants were allegedly near the resident’s room when the alarm triggered. Despite protocol for all nursing staff to immediately respond to ventilator alarms, they allegedly ignored the alarm for over nine minutes, failing to provide assistance to the patient.

When staff eventually attended to the patient, she was unresponsive and unconscious. She died the next day, after being transported to Nassau University Medical Center for treatment.

The three nursing staff pleaded not guilty to their charges of first-degree endangering the welfare of a vulnerable elderly person, or an incompetent or physically disabled person, as well as wilful violation of health laws.

They have been released without bail, and are no longer working at the nursing home facility. However, if convicted, each will face up to seven years in prison. 

Rates of medical errors too high for comfort

In separate incidences at UMass Memorial and Saint Vincent Hospital, multiple medical errors occurred due to neglect by hospital staff to correctly identify their patients. As a result, some patients received wrong diagnoses and underwent unnecessary medical procedures.

“If you fail to follow the procedures it’s only a matter of time before a mistake will occur,” said Dr Eric Dickson, the president of UMass Memorial Health Care who added that hospital staff have been informed to adhere to procedures at all times.

Medical errors that occur in the field of healthcare may be unintentional, and may not necessarily be a result of negligence by healthcare professionals.

However, lack of professional judgement, failure to comply with protocol and neglect by healthcare providers to act in accordance with the principal, Primum non nocere – “first, do no harm” – very obviously increases the risk of injury or death of any patient under their care. MIMS

Read more:
Doctors: medical negligence and how to avoid it
Medical errors: Negligence leads to patient mix-up
7 serial killers who were nurses
Is medical malpractice on the rise?

Sources:
https://www.longislandpress.com/2016/12/28/nassau-nursing-home-nurses-aide-charged-with-fatally-neglecting-patient/
http://patch.com/new-york/malverne-lynbrook/three-nurses-charged-neglectful-death-elderly-patient-attorney-general
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/dec/28/3-at-long-island-nursing-home-arrested-in-patients/
http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/media/releases/study_suggests_medical_errors_now_third_leading_
cause_of_death_in_the_us