Patient called 911 from hospital bed because staff allegedly did not respond to complaints, suit says

By Catherine Melancon | Oct 16, 2012

Corey J. Hebert BATON ROUGE – An East Feliciana Parish woman has filed suit against a hospital for allegedly inadequate care during her stay.

Corey J. Hebert

BATON ROUGE – An East Feliciana Parish woman has filed suit against a hospital for allegedly inadequate care during her stay.

Elizabeth Reitzell filed suit against Ochsner Medical Center, Baton Rouge and Ochsner Clinic Foundation in the 19th Judicial Court on Aug. 15.

Reitzell, a woman who teaches medical assistants and surgical technologists, allegedly fell on May 19, 2010 and injured her right wrist and shoulder.

She received treatment at Oschsner where an X-ray allegedly showed a hairline fracture of her right wrist. A cast was put on from above her wrist to her fingers and she was scheduled to have an MRI on May 21, 2010. On her way to get the MRI, the plaintiff allegedly experienced shortness of breath and chest pain and was taken to the Emergency Room at Ochsner.

Reitzell alleges while she was in the hospital, her right hand started swelling that caused pain and numbness of her fingers. The plaintiff alleges she told the staff multiple times that she was suffering tremendously, but the issues were never addressed.

The suit says that she called 911 from her hospital bed, but was told by emergency responders there was nothing they could do since she was already in the hospital.

Reitzell also claims that a phone order from a physician directed nurses to use a cast cutter to cut the cast in two pieces, but leave the pieces in place and use an ACE wrap to hold them together.

A nurse came into the room after receiving a call from the paramedic Reitzell got in touch with and allegedly told the plaintiff the hospital was short-staffed and some nurses had 22 patients assigned to them.

The nurse then attempted to cut the cast as instructed, but was unable to due to lack of proper equipment. The plaintiff claims she was told the cast would be removed the following day with better equipment.

On May 26, 2010, the plaintiff was placed on IV morphine every two hours, but her cast was still not removed, the suit claims. The next day, the medical records show a nurse had written that there was "decreased sensation to right fingers." Later that day, on May 27, 2010, the plaintiff's cast was removed with an electrically powered device and she was discharged, Reitzell claims.

Since being discharged, Reitzell says she has permanent nerve damage to her right hand and fingers and has received a recommendation from a neurologist for corrective surgery.

The defendant is accused of failing to adequately assess the plaintiff's condition, failing to fulfill the doctor's order to split the cast, failing to properly report the plaintiff's condition and failing to notify the proper physicians that the order to remove the cast had not been fulfilled.

An unspecified amount in damages is sought for pain and suffering, impairment of function of her dominant right hand, nerve damage, lost wages, mental anxiety and distress, loss of life's pleasures, the inability to use her hand to the same extent as before and the inability to engage in certain activities in the same manner as before such as making jewelry, handwriting, typing, lifting heavy objects, opening jars and shaking hands. She is also seeking compensation for necessary medical supplies and appliances, doctor, hospital, medical, physical therapy and occupational therapy expenses, as well as pharmaceutical expenses.

The plaintiff is represented by Corey J. Hebert of Moore, Thompson & Lee, APLC.

The plaintiff requests a trial by jury.

The case has been assigned to Division A Judge Todd Hernandez.

Case no. 614668.

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