Lawsuit filed in death at hospital
By Lee Williams
Published in News on December 24, 2006 2:13 AM
The family of a patient who died while in care at Cherry Hospital filed a lawsuit against the psychiatric facility Monday alleging improper restraint employed by the nursing staff contributed to her death.
Janella Williams of Plymouth, a 35-year-old patient diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, died Feb. 17, while receiving care at Cherry Hospital on Stevens Mill Road, according to a North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services report.
Ms. Williams was found unresponsive at 8:45 a.m. in the four-point mechanical restraints she was placed in after she allegedly misbehaved at the hospital. Ms. Williams was taken to a medical hospital, where she was pronounced dead at 9:31 a.m., the state report said.
Her family has since filed a lawsuit against the 284-bed inpatient hospital at the North Carolina Industrial Commission's Tort Claims Division in Raleigh, the family's attorney, Lynne Holtkamp of Chapel Hill said. The lawsuit listed Calvin Williams and the estate of Janella Williams as plaintiffs. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, the agency that oversees Cherry Hospital, is listed as the defendant.
Mark Van Siver, a spokesman for North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, acknowledged the lawsuit, but provided no details about the case.
"We can't comment on any pending litigation," Van Siver said.
A 30-page report from the Department of Health and Human Services, dated March 8, 2006, revealed nine deficiencies noted during a review of the Williams case.
The hospital was cited for governing body, patients' rights, nursing services, care of patient, physician order for seclusion and restraint, ending seclusion and restraint ASAP, continuous assessment, death reporting and registered nurse supervision of nursing care.
Ms. Williams allegedly was unruly and combative with the nursing staff. She allegedly was known to play possum or limp and later would strike employees when they went to check on her, according to the report.
Hours before her death, Ms. Williams allegedly refused to take her medicine. She hit and spit on several technicians and nurses. She also attempted to choke one employee.
For her behavior, she was placed in mechanical four-point restraints at 5:45 a.m., but managed to get out, the report said.
The nursing staff did not have a physician's order to place her in restraints again after she managed to get out of them the first time, the state report said.
According to the hospital's notes, Ms. Williams, however, was placed back in four-point restraints at 7:30 a.m. She was found unresponsive at 8:45 a.m.
The medical record review revealed no evidence that a registered nurse evaluated Ms. Williams every hour as outlined in the hospital's Isolation Time Out-Seclusion-Restraint-Psychiatric Care policy to determine the continued need for four-point restraints, the state said.
According to the hospital's notes, Ms. Williams remained in restraints from 5:45 to 8:50 a.m., the state report said.
Other than obesity, Ms. Williams was considered in good health, the family's attorney, Ms. Holtkamp said.
A lawsuit is only one side of a complaint and does not indicate guilt or innocence of either party.
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