Where Injured People Come First

How a recent tragedy forced change in Pittsburgh emergency rooms

On Behalf of | Feb 7, 2024 | Medical Malpractice

When people go to the hospital for medical care, they expect to receive compassionate consideration and appropriate treatment. Especially when an emergency occurs, patients rely on healthcare professionals to know what to do when they need immediate support. Unfortunately, mistakes do happen in medical settings.

Sometimes, unusually high levels of demand contribute to staff members overlooking certain concerns or failing to react in a timely manner when a patient needs emergency support. Other times, distraction caused by visitors or other patients could lead to a preventable mistake. The internal biases of those providing medical care can also affect patient safety, as can inadequate training.

As a result of a number of those challenges converging in one recent tragic situation at a local hospital change in training processes at local hospitals and emergency rooms are now in effect.

What inspired changes to training practices?

In November 2023, a patient at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania-Cedar Avenue experienced a medical emergency, collapsing over their walker before sliding down a wall to the floor. There were two nurses and two technicians present intermittently throughout their ordeal, but none of them did anything to help the patient. Instead, they waited 10 minutes before starting CPR.

The patient died, and many people believe their admission to the behavioral health ward contributed to the inadequate medical response. The hospital did respond to this tragedy by re-training staff to ensure that they know how to handle patient falls and how to secure emergency support for a patient in crisis.

Issues in the fatal incident included a failure to check the patient’s vital signs, a failure to call for emergency support and the decision to leave the patient unattended. The hospital has since committed to training staff on “diagnostic overshadowing,” which may lead to improper responses if a patient has behavioral health issues.

Many other hospitals and emergency rooms may conduct similar training to prevent diagnostic errors. Workers should know how to obtain immediate support in an emergency and how to overcome their personal biases about medical conditions, including mental health or behavioral health issues.

Patients affected by the biases of healthcare providers or those grieving a negative outcome of medical care may have grounds to initiate a medical malpractice lawsuit. Holding facilities accountable for inadequate training and improper responses can potentially lead to changes in standards at those facilities, in addition to compensation for victims and/or their loved ones.