More than 170 people have filed claims against Summerlin Hospital Medical Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. The plaintiffs are hospital employees, former patients and visitors who may have been exposed to tuberculosis last year during a TB outbreak at the hospital. About 60 people involved have since tested positive for tuberculosis.
The outbreak has been traced back to Vanessa White and her newborn twin daughters. According to the lawsuit filed by White’s husband, she was treated at the hospital for four months and given 30 different diagnoses, but none of them was TB. The lawsuit states that tuberculosis was not mentioned until two days before her death. Testing for the disease was not performed until one day prior to her death.
White, who did not know she had the disease, was allowed to visit her twins in the Summerlin Neonatal Intensive Care Unit without a gown or mask, while running a fever of 103 degrees. White’s visits reportedly caused the outbreak of the disease in the NICU Level III unit.
White and one of her newborn daughters died from the disease. The other newborn also died but was not diagnosed with TB. Her husband has sued the hospital for failing to diagnose the disease. Some believe that the hospital may have been motivated to avoid a TB diagnosis because such a diagnosis requires mandatory reporting requirements.
Lawsuits filed by others who were exposed to TB also accuse Summerlin Hospital of failing to properly screen patients, failing to maintain proper infection controls and failing to adequately respond once White had died from tuberculosis.
The Nevada Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigated the incident and found that the hospital failed to protect employees who were exposed to the fatal tuberculosis outbreak. OSHA labeled six of the violations it found as “serious.”
At least 20 hospital employees were exposed to and contracted TB and exhibited either contagious or latent forms of the disease, according to OSHA. AT least one employee who had direct contact with infected patients was not given an initial TB screening until eight weeks after the exposure. At least eight hospital workers who tested positive for TB in initial screening had to wait seven or more days to have their chest X-rayed to rule out active disease.
The hospital was cited with failure to conduct a proper TB risk assessment, failure to initiate airborne precautions for patients who displayed signs of infection. OSHA also found that the hospital’s exposure control plan failed to include all the significant symptoms that are indicative of a TB diagnosis.
Ruben White seeks unspecified monetary damages on behalf of his wife, 25-year-old Vanessa, who died in July 2013.
Summerlin Hospital Medical Center filed a defamation suit against the attorney who is representing the family of Vanessa White and her baby for at least $10,000 in damages for implying that the hospital intentionally concealed or failed to diagnose tuberculosis because it would spark a state investigation.
The hospital claims that they cannot be held accountable for failing to diagnose, as only doctors can do that.
What do you think about this story? Do you believe the hospital should be held accountable?
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