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Woman Dies from Fill-In Nurse’s Error

September 24 of this year, a female patient at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland, California, died due to what the hospital has called a “medical error” that occurred while a replacement nurse filling in during a labor strike was treating her.

Medical errors are defined as preventable adverse affects of care, whether or not the mistake causes harm to the patient. Examples of medical errors include inaccurate or incomplete diagnosis or treatment of a disease, injury, or other ailment. In 2000, the Institute of Medicine estimate that medical errors result in 98,000 preventable deaths and 1,000,000 excess injuries each year across the country.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the nurse gave the woman a fatal dose of medication. Though officials believe the medication error was an accident, the nurse was taken in for questioning by the Oakland Police Department, and an internal investigation is under way at the hospital.

The incident occurred while most of the hospital’s usual staff was locked out of the hospital after a one-day strike the Thursday prior. Following the strike,
Sutter Health, the company that operates the Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland, hired replacement nurses on five-day contracts. As a result, the nurses who participated in the strike were locked out of the hospital until the temporary contracts expired on September 27.

As per the San Francisco Chronicle‘s report, as many as 23,000 nurses at 34 hospitals across Northern and Central California participated in the strike. Subsequently, union officials filed a complaint with California’s Department of Public Health, alleging that a number of the replacement nurses lacked the proper certification for the jobs they were doing
Ann Demoro, executive director of the California Nurses Association-National Nurses United, has said that replacement nurses often have less experience and less familiarity with the hospitals than the standard nurses. Temporary nursing staff are required to maintain all the appropriate certifications, but accidents such as this one occur when the replacement nurses are unfamiliar with their surroundings, or haven’t had nearly enough practical experience to be properly qualified.

The victim’s family may be entitled to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against both the nurse who was responsible for the misadministration of medication, as well as the hospital, who bears responsibility for her actions. In cases such as this, the hospital has the obligation to ensure that nurses it employs are adequately proficient, and has the duty to supervise the work of all employees.

When the treatment provided falls below the accepted standard of care in the medical community and causes either injury or death to a patient, healthcare providers and the hospitals supervising them are liable. Our Illinois medical malpractice attorneys have handled numerous cases similar to this case, and have the diligence and understanding required to fight for their client’s rights. In fact, our malpractice lawyers obtained a $17.7 million Illinois medical malpractice settlement for a patient who suffered a life-altering brain injury due to nursing staff negligence at a Chicago hospital.

If you or a loved one have been harmed because of an error in nursing negligence, please contact an attorney immediately to better understand your rights.