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PA: Understaffing Not a Factor in Carlisle Deaths

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, September 9, 2011

Understaffing at Carlisle Regional Medical Center did not play a role in the deaths of two emergency department patients in June, the Pennsylvania Department of Health said.

Michael Wolf, the department's acting deputy secretary for quality assurance, said in a letter to Carlisle Regional CEO John Kristel that "the department has carefully examined several patient medical records, documentation, and additional information provided by the Hospital. We now relay that the patient deaths related to staffing as reported in the media appear unfounded and not based on the documentation."

It was not immediately clear what caused the patients' death. However, Kristel made the state's letter public and said in prepared remarks that the findings "substantiate what we have known all along: These patients received prompt and appropriate care by a dedicated team of physicians and healthcare professionals."

The state launched an investigation at Carlisle Regional, which is owned by Naples, FL-based Health Management Associates, Inc., following several complaints, and the deaths of two emergency department patients  there.

On June 5, a critical care patient died while undergoing a CT scan. An employee told state investigators that the patient was sent for imaging without a nurse because only four nurses were on duty to service the overflowing emergency department.

On June 11, a patient in the emergency department complained of chest pains, and light-headedness died at the hospital more than seven hours after a cardiologist recommended that the patient be transferred to Harrisburg Hospital for an aortic valve replacement.

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