St Luke’s Meridian: Hospital of Horrors

I must say that I was until now, blithely unaware that here in the Treasure Valley there was such a huge disparity between our two major hospitals, St. Alphonsus and St. Lukes.

I recently had the opportunity to evaluate the hospital care of both.

What did I find?  Massive differences, and some very troubling problems.

I found at St. Alphonsus a level of professionalism, care and courtesy that was amazing.  Their staff always knew what was going on with their patient with nary a misstep in sight.  I have previously written my praises of my last visit to St. Alphonsus medical center, so I’ll leave it with a single comment:  I felt no stress or concerns there.  I knew everything was in hand and taken care of so that we could focus on simply dealing with our situation.

St Luke’s became my bitterest surprise to date.  It did not upset me much that the hospital building shows its age, or that some of the equipment is out of date or well used, but rather mostly that the staff showed a complete lack of understanding of the basic concepts of interdepartmental communication or cooperation.  Add to that a surprising unwillingness to follow their own internal procedures designed to keep patients safe.

Let’s follow a single patient through her care for a single visit to the St. Lukes in Meridian, shall we?

The Patient comes from the emergency room of another facility by ambulance:  The room is booked before the patient enters the ambulance and the family is notified.  The patient is not correctly identified or wrist banded upon entering the hospital.  This unbanded patient is then placed in the wrong room, so her family is left to ask hospital staff where they had placed their loved one.  Once that issue is corrected, the family finds the patient busily cleaning her own hospital bed of the leftover bodily fluids that nobody has bothered to clean off the bed before placing her there.  Above the door is a bold red sign declaring this patient to be an “Extreme fall risk” citing dizziness.

Hmmm.  Anyone see the problem here in allowing an emergency patient who is known to be unstable on her feet and could very easily fall over without support to get out of bed, and hand them Clorox wipes to clean their own bed of the infected bodily fluids of a previous patient?  The attending nurse saw no problem with this.  In fact, she handed the Clorox wipes to the patient herself and did not make any effort whatsoever to ensure this new patient did not come in contact with a potentially deadly biohazard.   Later, when the patient began to recover sufficiently enough to take a shower, she found the old used soap from the previous patient still sitting there uncleaned.

Time to find out what’s wrong with our patient:  5 minutes with a Doctor results in the request for an X-ray of the patient.  Simple procedure, right?  The nurse hands off the patient in the hands of another “crew” who takes the patient to the MRI lab by mistake.  They compound that error by insisting that the patient in fact needs an MRI.  Shove the patient in the hallway and abandon her.  Then they move the patient again facing another patient, also abandoned in the same hallway.  They sit there, facing each other in awkward silence for some time before the MRI technician becomes uncomfortable with the situation and wades through the mess of misinformation to find the correct answer and then off the patient finally goes to the X-ray lab.

Time for some tests!  But wait, who is this person?  A medical technician attempts to administer a blood test of some kind but cannot correctly identify the patient, calling her by the wrong name twice before the Patient’s family corrects him.  The attending nurse shows no concern whatsoever when the patient’s husband asks about the problem.  Another technician enters the room in order to administer yet another test, but she too misidentifies the patient.  Once again, the attending nurse who is standing in the room shows no concern whatsoever and simply rolls her eyes when asked about it as if it is someone else’s problem.  The patient’s husband  takes the matter into his own hands and confronts the attending nurse, asking her if he was going to be forced to stay by his wife’s side 24 hours a day in order to prevent someone from amputating a limb or taking out an organ from his wife by mistake because she didn’t want to take the time to properly identify her sometimes unconscious patient.

One of the tests has left blood spilled on the bed, so a cleaning is requested.  The patient goes into the bathroom to relieve herself when the cleaning lady arrives, but finds upon her return that not only are the bloody sheets still on the bed, but there is still blood on the floor and the cleaning lady has simply left the bed folded replacement sheets for the patient to deal with as well as the blood stains on the floor.

Now, this hospital of horrors continues to shine:  Every now and then, medical technicians come and go for various reasons, but all of them seem to have the same disregard for the privacy of their patients:  Coming into the patient’s room to conduct tests or consult with the patient, they receive a number of phone calls on their cell phones,  each of them obliges the caller who apparently has questions regarding the care of a different patient, because they all stop to discuss the care of any number of patients while on the call standing next to this patient, revealing medical details and room numbers without a care.  What is HIPAA?  Apparently not a concern at St. Luke’s Meridian.

Procedures nearest to shift change seem to suffer the most:  The failure to document a breathing treatment left this patient gasping for breath and convulsing in chest pain from an unnecessary procedure.  How could this happen?  A breathing treatment is administered with medication near the end of one shift, but the outgoing nurse forgets to document it.  When the patient notifies the incoming nurse of the completion of the  procedure, the nurse insists another treatment was necessary because nothing shows on her chart and refuses to listen to the patient who told her one was completed already.  An additional unnecessary treatment is performed, causing the patient pain and suffering.

Speaking of pain, our patient is told to request pain medicine when the pain gets to be unbearable, so they administer Morphene to relieve her pain.  She tries not to ask for pain meds as long as she can because they are dangerous, so when she finally asks again for pain relief, she waits for a few hours after the attendant assured her she had notified the nurse of her request.  When the pain has reached beyond being too much to bear, she once again calls for a nurse, who tells her that she did not get any request for pain medication for her.  The attendant is called back and she explains to the patient that she checked with the nurse and apologized for the mixup.  The nurse wrote down the wrong room number and mistakenly administered the Morphene to another patient who never requested it.

Wow.  I hope that didn’t complicate someone’s life.  Morphene is a very dangerous drug so simply shoot someone up with unnecessarily…   One is left to wonder what damage was done to that other patient?

By this time, the patient’s husband had enough of this Hospital of horrors and calls upon the Hospital Administrator to identify the Biohazard his wife was exposed to upon entering the hospital bed with someone else’s bodily fluids still on it.  She flatly refuses to cooperate when approached about this incredible lapse in judgment, she refused to tell the patient what hazardous illness or disease she had been unnecessarily exposed to, but returns a few minutes later offering them movie tickets; as if a couple hours staring at a movie screen will somehow erase the agony of not knowing what fatal illness has just entered her body from some other patient or magically take away the burden of not knowing if your spouse had been exposed to a life-threatening bacteria or other malady that would forever change her life and that of those around her.  This Floor administrator claimed HIPAA as her shield against providing this information and showed no effort whatsoever to correct the problem by taking proactive measures to alleviate any contamination or even attempt to identify the dangers involved or begin to treat this patient against them.

Having worked in the Health sector for a few years, I do actually know what constitutes a HIPAA violation, and notifying a patient of the specific contaminant they have been unnecessarily exposed to is not anywhere close to any conceivable protected status.  Non-Identifying information regarding the existence of a danger to life has never been excused by HIPAA and when all identifying circumstances and information has been removed, HIPAA does not regulate the release of that information whatsoever.  That administrator was simply covering her ass to avoid a lawsuit and in the process completely ignored the well-being and health of a patient whose life and wellbeing were put in her charge.

The amount of personal stress and misery being caused by St. Luke’s Meridian hospitals lack of compassion, lack of simple coordination and inexcusable lack of the most basic competence is mind-blowing in its complete and utter failure and I am personally insulted to the core that someone in the healthcare profession would stoop to throwing pathetic gifts at someone who is facing possible life altering calamity at their hands.

Note:  The threat of a lawsuit has produced from St.  Lukes Hospital, the assurance that those involved have received “training” to correct these issues and have expressed their apology for the situation.  The biohazard has been identified as pneumonia, which the Hospital insists could not have been transferred to our patient through the exposure to dried bodily fluids.  Oh, I feel better already, don’t you?

Note:  I plan to order medic alert bracelets for my family which expressly forbid St. Luke’s from ever treating us in the future.  Just in case I’m not awake to object…

The disregard for human life that has been found to exist within the walls of St. Luke’s Meridian Hospital is staggering.  I cannot begin to imagine how far a Healthcare organization must fall to find itself in this despicable a state of affairs.

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  1. kathy Needs

    My 3 year old grandson was admitted via the ER last night with vomiting copious amounts of blood due to a scab dislodging and opening a vein. They put an IV in but didn't hook up the fluids!!!!! By the time he surgeon came back to check his status to take him to surgery he was unconscious!!! You could clearly see how upset the surgeon was that they didn't follow his orders and start fluids. He took him to surgery and then he was transported out via ambulance to Boise st. Luke's pediatric ward. On a side note…in recovery mom, GPA and GMA cared for him while he thrashed around, soiled himself running down his legs, while 3 nurses sat at the desk and watched. There were no other patients in recovery.

  2. Manju

    I totally agree with you. I visited st Luke's meridian ER in mid of jan2013 and had horrible experiences. They don't care for the patients, they make tons of mistakes..I was in much bad shape after they gave the treatment. Every time I had to fight with them, to get the right treatment . Aktogether it was a horrible experience

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