Safety

Katrina patient death case is settled before jurors can debate emergency planning aspect

Hospital Safety Insider, January 27, 2010

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Fallout will likely be minimal for hospitals from a court case stemming from Hurricane Katrina that, had it gone to a jury, had the potential to change the way healthcare facilities design emergency power systems.
 
The case was settled confidentially Tuesday in the midst of the trial in New Orleans, reported The Times-Picayune newspaper.
 
The family of deceased patient Althea LaCoste sued Pendleton Methodist Hospital, LLC, in New Orleans, saying that LaCoste died in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina because the facility allegedly failed to design its emergency power infrastructure to withstand flood waters and allegedly failed to have an adequate plan in place to transfer patients, according to court documents.
 
The hospital suffered terrible damage from flood waters and never reopened. LaCoste required a mechanical ventilator when she was admitted to Pendleton Methodist on August 28, 2005. During Katrina's rising waters, the hospital lost regular and emergency generator power, which caused various medical equipment to shut down, according to court records.
 
The hospital had two generators: one near the ground floor and one on the roof of the building. LaCoste's family argued that if the hospital had invested in a $10,000 submersible fuel pump, the roof generator might have kept operating, The Times-Picayune previously reported.
 
During the trial, the hospital’s former CEO said a warning about the generator system being susceptible to flooding was never raised with him in 2003 by a vice president of the facility who had written a memo about the concern the year before, according to The Times-Picayune.
 
Many of the same emergency power concerns will be raised again in an upcoming May trial between Pendleton Methodist and another patient who died after Katrina hit, the newspaper said.



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