United Hospital defended its trauma center and denied former trauma coordinator’s allegations of shoddy care.
A Hudson, Wis., woman is suing Allina Health System, alleging that she was fired from her nursing job at United Hospital in an act of retaliation after she complained that trauma patients were getting substandard care.
Sandra White’s suit, filed in Ramsey County District Court, alleges that “patients were dying as a result” of poor care at United Hospital in St. Paul. White, who was hired at the hospital in April 2011 as trauma program coordinator, also alleges that key leaders at United Hospital ignored and belittled her attempts to address the issues.
“White continued to witness throughout 2011 substandard care for trauma patients brought to United’s level III trauma center that included slow assessment, delay of care, careless care, failure to chart, slow response by surgeons, failure to transfer trauma patients within 30 minutes when United was unable to handle them, failure to either timely activate the trauma team or activate the team at all, failure to use cervical collars for neck injuries, and the failure of the trauma surgeons and [emergency department] doctors to review their performance during the [performance improvement] process and morbidity and mortality reviews,” the lawsuit said.
United Hospital is owned by Allina Health System.
Allina released a written statement that said: “United Hospital is proud of its Level III trauma designation and the care it provides to its patients. We absolutely deny these allegations and will vigorously oppose this lawsuit. We believe that when the facts in this matter are revealed it will be clear that these allegations are without merit.”
Allina spokeswoman Gloria O’Connell said she could not discuss the status of several United Hospital doctors and administrators that White alleges either performed shoddy work or ignored problems that were brought to their attention.
White, who is now working with Medtronic in a non-nursing capacity, said she wasn’t the first to speak up. Other nurses complained in the past, she said, and were also fired.
“Nurses are afraid they’re going to lose their jobs when they advocate for their patients,” she said. “I’ve been in nursing over 30 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this.”
White eventually took her concerns to the Minnesota Department of Health in December 2011, and alleges in her lawsuit that she was told by a supervisor not to have direct contact with the state.
White’s suit said that the hospital investigated her for contacting the state and that she was eventually told on Oct. 11, 2012, that she was being fired and had 60 days left on the job. She quit a few weeks later.
White said she encountered several dangerous situations in the hospital, and tried to rectify them on the spot by turning them into teaching moments for staff.
Her lawsuit alleges that a patient with a known aneurysm was admitted in 2011, but treatment was delayed for four hours. The patient died soon after being taken into surgery.
The suit also alleges that in 2011, another patient was found to have a spleen laceration. “The patient died because of the delay in activating the trauma team and the failure to take the patient to surgery,” the suit said.
“Terrible risks were being taken,” White said. “I feel like I’ve been holding on to a dirty family secret. I’m feeling good now. It was a terrible burden.”
Chao Xiong • 612-270-4708