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CA Hospital Patient's Death Betrays a Trust

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, October 3, 2011

Surveys show that the public reveres nurses as the "most trusted" professionals. It's a well-deserved reputation built one patient at a time over decades of dedication and advocacy.

Sadly, that trust was violated in the death of Judith Ming, 66, and that makes her tragedy all the more disturbing. 

The circumstances surrounding Ming's death on Sept. 24 at Sutter Health's Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland, CA remain under investigation. The accident occurred during the second-day of a five-day lockout of unionized staff who had walked off the job during a one-day strike on Sept. 22.

Preliminary reports indicate that Ming, who for months had battled ovarian cancer, died one day after a replacement nurse accidentally put a nutritional supplement into a catheter that entered her bloodstream. For the sake of expediency, anyone not familiar with the story can read this detailed account.  

Ming's death was tragic enough. Unfortunately, what followed was a travesty, as the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United, Sutter Health, and the California Hospital Association executives abandoned decorum and traded barbs and pointed fingers.  

"An incident like this is chilling and strikes right to our nurses' concern about their ability to advocate for their patients," CNA/NNU Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro, told the San Francisco Chronicle. "It was irresponsible to lock out those nurses."

DeMoro's comments prompted a return salvo from Sutter Health, which posted a statement on its Website expressing deep regret for Ming's death, but also castigating union leaders for "exploiting the tragic death of this patient to further their own bargaining purposes, which is a shame."

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6 comments on "CA Hospital Patient's Death Betrays a Trust"


Maureen Dugan (10/5/2011 at 2:21 AM)
Yes Registered Nurses are trusted by patients and the community. We did not betray that trust. That was done by hospital administrators such as Sutter, who refuse to negotiate in good faith. Registered Nurses do not strike lightly. We are held to a 100% standard of providing safe, effective and therapeutic care[INVALID]and yet how do we as nurses hold the hospital to their 100% of responsibility? Thankfully , as a member of a all RN Union , we have a voice. We speak up every day and every way afforded to us. What we hear in response is: no staff is available, you have to make due, our budget is fixed, ignore the obscene raises and bonuses the CEO, etc are getting, there is no more nursing staff to assist you....Nurses are standing up , advocating for our patients and our profession. If I do not do that I can have my license revoked by the state. My patients trust me to fight for them , and that is what I do every day for the last 22 years.

april (10/4/2011 at 9:44 PM)
ARE YOU KIDDING ME????!!!!! You think doctors treat patients for no money (where the hell did you get that from by the way), you think doctors have to put up with the CRAP that nurses have to put up with from management trying to change the ways we KNOW patients should be treated? We have a solid education in patient care but the people who decide how to treat patients sit behind a desk. Ridiculous. If nurses made more decisions on patient care errors and death rates would plummet.

Sheri (10/4/2011 at 7:27 PM)
Really? at Chloes comment above- Doctors look at insurance cards far more often than nurses ever do.