A cancer patient who died at a California hospital during a nurses' strike was given intravenously a nutritional supplement meant to be administered through a feeding tube, according to published reports.
A replacement nurse at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland mistakenly hooked the nutrient solution up to an IV for 66-year-old Judith Ming, instead of to the tube leading to Ming's stomach, the Oakland Tribune reports (http://bit.ly/nYadgj).
The newspaper quotes another nurse who was hired by an Alabama contractor to fill in while many of the hospital's regular nurses were locked out by management following a one-day strike on Thursday. The lockout continued until Tuesday because the hospital had hired 500 replacement nurses for a five-day contract.
"Everything was complete chaos," the nurse, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of patient privacy laws, told the Tribune. "We were thrown in."
Hospital officials have acknowledged Ming, 66, died from a medical error but have not described what happened pending an investigation into Ming's death. Police have said only that a replacement nurse gave her a non-prescribed dosage of a drug known to be lethal in the manner in which was administered.
The strike was over benefit cuts and other concession the nurses' union says Sutter Health is demanding
Union officials have questioned the qualifications of the replacement nurses that were brought in by the hospital during the lockout. The California Nurses Association provided a negotiation update to its members in which it referred to the improperly administered supplement as "grossly negligent" and an error so outlandish and bizarre" that police had questioned the temporary nurse involved.
Lois Aldrich, who has spent 31 of her 47 years as a nurse at Alta Bates Summit, told The Associated Press Tuesday that a regular nurse would not have made the same mistake.
"That's a task a nurse straight out of nursing school would know not to do."
Carolyn Kemp, a spokeswoman for the hospital, which is part of the Sutter Health network, said they met the same high standards the hospital demands of all its nurses.
"This is a very deep, very intensive investigation that's going on, on many levels," Kemp said.
The death is under investigation by Oakland police, the Alameda County coroner's office and the state Department of Public Health. Ralph Montano, a spokesman with the public health department, said he could not release any details about the investigation because it is still ongoing. Oakland police and the Alameda County coroner's office also declined to release additional information about the case.
Ming's neighbor, C. Cheryl Archer, said her friend was very ill from ovarian cancer but appeared to be gaining strength during a visit about two weeks ago.
"I loved her very much," Archer told the San Francisco Chronicle (http://bit.ly/neKWYk). "She was a lovely person, very sweet and kind."
Archer said she went to visit Ming, who had been hospitalized since July, on Saturday and was told by hospital officials to contact Ming's family. She reached Ming's husband, Jim Ming, who was devastated by the news.
"When you don't have kids and you lose your partner you've had your whole life, I think it's a very difficult time for him," Archer said.
Information from: San Francisco Chronicle, http://www.sfgate.com