January 10, 2011
The family of the former Superintendent of Public Works of Soledad is suing Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital, alleging wrongful death, elder abuse, and negligence.
The case, filed in the Monterey County Superior Court on Dec. 29 by Susan Patronik, the family’s attorney, does not specify an amount of compensation the family is asking for damages. A spokesperson from SVMH and the plaintiff’s attorney both declined to comment on the case.
According to the case, Clarence Nielson, who died at age 75 on Dec. 22, 2009 at SVMH, was unattended for 15 minutes after a fall from bed, which led to irreversible brain damage and his subsequent death. Nielson was admitted to the hospital for weakness, fever, and hypotension four days earlier, and his condition had been improving until he fell from bed at midnight the day before he died. He was suffering from weakness due to chemotherapy treatment for lung cancer, which was improving.
After he fell, heart monitor leads connected to Nielson’s chest became detached, alerting hospital staff of a need for assistance. Fifteen minutes later, Nielson was found not breathing and with no pulse, according to the case. CPR then restored his breathing, but the lack of oxygen sustained was determined to have significantly impaired his neurological system. The family then decided to cease aggressive care, and the patient died nearly two days after his fall.
“When a patient being monitored on a telemetry unit lies on the floor for almost 15 minutes before nursing staff initiates Basic Life Support, this constitutes negligence, falls below the standard of care, and caused and/or contributed to the irreversible brain damage that led to Mr. Nielson’s death,” says the case. Because Nielson had been rated as a “fall risk” by a registered nurse at SVMH, attention should have been especially prompt, the family contends.The parties are scheduled to appear in court on April 29.