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Hospital sued over woman's death after four-hour wait

A man has sued a Washington hospital after his wife, aged 41, died waiting for care in the emergency department waiting room last year, “being left to languish in the emergency department lobby for about four and a half hours, without proper monitoring and/or assessment”.

Mother-of-three Cheyenna Costello had acute and chronic pancreatitis with pseudocyst, resulting in probable cardiac dysrhythmia, according to a report, and her husband, Sean Costello, said the alleged negligence by the hospital, Providence Regional Medical Centre Everett, included the “failure to timely room, examine, test, warn, monitor, intervene, and otherwise render the necessary care”.

MedPage Today reports that the negligence and wrongful death suit comes roughly a year after the hospital had responded to local concerns about nurse staffing levels, saying that like other healthcare facilities countrywide, it had been greatly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

On the night in question, according to the report, Costello had been taken to the emergency department with stomach pains, and on arrival, was told to sit in the waiting room, where she was left for about nearly five hours without ever being examined by a doctor until she started having seizures and ultimately died.

Hours before her death, hospital staff allegedly instructed an EMS crew to take her to the emergency department waiting room until she could be seen, said the complaint.
“She was placed in a wheelchair in the lobby because there were no open seats, and she was given blankets to stay warm.”

A registered nurse (RN) assigned her an Emergency Severity Index of 3, considered “urgent.” She was also assigned a Modified Early Warning System (MEWS) score – which evaluates a patient’s physiological state based on heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate, body temperature, mental state, and urine output – of 4 (a MEWS score of 3 is “considered critical and requires the patient to receive extra attention”).

A doctor documented Cheyenna as critically ill “with significant risk to decompensate and even death, requiring prompt bedside evaluation and intervention”, the complaint noted.

In addition, a triage nurse is alleged to have entered standing orders that were signed by a physician, with these including a comprehensive metabolic panel.

However, this test was not completed until five hours later, “apparently after she had died”, the complaint stated, adding that the doctor said the test showed Cheyenna was severely hypokalaemic.

“All the above signify a patient as being in critical condition and requiring immediate rooming and assessment by a physician,” the complaint noted.

“Had the metabolic tests been timely performed, staff would have had enough time to diagnose her pancreatitis and correct the potassium imbalance.”

Her husband said hospital leadership “failed to ensure staff was trained competently, and/or given the essential resources to recognise and assess a critically ill patient and take the proper interventions and/or provide the requested needs to mitigate a serious patient safety risk”.

Costello is seeking damages of a yet-to-be-determined amount.

A spokesperson for Providence Everett did not immediately return a request for comment from MedPage Today.


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