WellSpan York Hospital is at the center of a wrongful death suit after staff failed to notice a man in distress in the ER waiting room.
The family of 72-year-old Terry Odoms just filed a wrongful death suit in York County Court against WellSpan York Hospital in Pennsylvania after he went unnoticed for hours in the ER waiting room, despite showing signs of distress. According to the complaint, along with surveillance video, Odoms “was struggling to breathe and arched his back and waved his arm in an apparent bid to get someone’s attention” before slumping over in the waiting room.
Surveillance video also showed staff members walking by Odoms about a dozen times “over the course of two hours before a woman in blue scrubs finally checked on him and found him unresponsive in his wheelchair.” Despite efforts to revive him, he was pronounced dead an hour later. It was later determined that Odoms, a Vietnam veteran, “died of a heart condition called ischemic cardiomyopathy,” according to Matt Casey, the lawyer representing Odom’s son.
To make matters worse, the suit alleges Odoms was abandoned by hospital staff, “even though his vital signs showed he required immediate medical attention…Compounding the hospital’s negligence, hospital officials then deceived the family about the care he had received.”
For example, Keith Noll, the hospital’s president, said Odoms “was quickly seen by a nurse when he arrived.” He added the staff “responded as soon as they recognized your brother was no longer responsive, taking your brother to a room where CPR was started.” He failed to mention that no one checked on Odoms. To which the suit states:
“The surveillance video makes plain that Mr. Noll intentionally and badly misled the family regarding the events surrounding Mr. Odoms…The letter conceals the damning and shocking reality of WellSpan’s wholesale abandonment of Terry Lynn Odoms.”
WellSpan is a regional health network that operates eight hospitals and manages 20,000 employees. In the aftermath of Odom’s death, WellSpan began reviewing its “safety protocols, training staff, creating new ‘care team’ roles and implementing state Health Department recommendations.” In a statement shortly after the incident, WellSpan issued the following statement, “Our hearts go out to this patient’s family. This was a tragic situation.”
As part of the suit, Odom’s family blamed the incident on understaffing and claimed WellSpan “knew for at least a year that its emergency department was dangerously understaffed, but failed to do anything about it.” Casey said:
“As shocking as that video is, it was predictable based on the depths of the staffing shortage that was known about and not remedied for a long time before he arrived there that day.”
In addition to the suit, Pennsylvania health regulators launched an investigation “after Odoms’ death flagged multiple violations, including that WellSpan York failed to properly monitor and treat him, and that a key nurse was working multiple roles on the day he arrived via ambulance.”