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State officials declare St. Luke's Hospital failed to protect patients

According to today's Morning Call the Department of Health undertook an investigation related to patients who have been overdosed because of improperly programed morphine pumps. According to the new release, one patient was killed and two others were discovered. All three incidents involved patient controlled pumps which allow the patient to administer controlled amounts of morphine on demand.

If improperly regulated overdoses of morphine can cause a patient's auto immune system to slow or stop a person from breathing. The news release states that a 38 year old Kempton man, A'Brunzo, received five times the amount of prescribed morphine. The Board of Health reported that; "the cumulative effect of these systemic problems resulted in the hospital's inability to ensure the provisions of quality care in a safe environment". In fact the findings were so serious that the regulators declared that patients were in "immediate jeopardy".

It appears that these events took place in October of 2011. The Board also stated that the hospital failed to take the appropriate steps to document these malfunctions, and in the case of Mr. A'Brunzo, failed to properly document the episode in his chart. Medication errors are supposed to be reported immediately to the doctor who ordered the drug and a notation placed in the chart in "the most conspicuous manner possible".

The hospital has reported that new pumps were installed effective December 7, 2011. Competency testing for nurses and staff on the proper procedures is scheduled to take place in February.

While regulators were at the hospital they also found additional problems with the hospital's documentation practices. These instances involved doctor's authorizations regarding the use of restraints and failure to report infection data to the Department of Public Health.

Dennis F Feeley

The law firm of Cohen and Feeley is located in Bethlehem Pa., and limits its practice to serious injury cases including medical negligence .

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