After a patient died while waiting for care in an emergency department waiting room in Washington state, the woman’s husband has filed suit against the hospital, Providence Regional Medical Center Everett.
Sean Costello, individually and on behalf of the estate of Cheyenna Costello, alleged that his wife’s death at the age of 41 in November 2022 was the result of being “left to languish in the emergency department lobby for about four-and-one-half hours, without proper monitoring and/or assessment,” according to a complaint filed October 12 in King County Superior Court.
A coroner’s report noted that Cheyenna had acute and chronic pancreatitis with pseudocyst, resulting in probable cardiac dysrhythmia.
Costello’s complaint stated that the alleged negligence included the “failure to timely room, examine, test, warn, monitor, intervene, and otherwise render the necessary care.”
“The thought that just getting a lab result and acting on it could have saved this woman’s life was heartbreaking to me,” Marlena Grundy, JD, of PNW Strategic Legal Solutions in Bellevue, Washington, who is representing Costello in his lawsuit, told MedPage Today.
The medical negligence and wrongful death suit comes roughly a year after Providence Regional Medical Center Everett responded to local leaders’ concerns about nurse staffing levels and reports of Cheyenna’s death. The letter that the medical center sent to Snohomish County Council and Everett City Council members highlighted that, similar to other healthcare facilities across the country, it had been greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
On the night of Nov. 2, 2022, Cheyenna, a “vibrant, much-loved” mother of three was transported via the Snohomish County Fire Department to Providence Everett’s emergency department with stomach pains, the complaint stated. “Upon arrival, she was told to wait in the waiting room where she was left for about four-and-one-half hours without ever being placed in a room or examined by a doctor until she started having seizures and ultimately died.”
Hours before her death, hospital staff at Providence Everett allegedly instructed an EMS crew to take her to the emergency department lobby and place her there until she could be seen, according to the complaint. “She was placed in a wheelchair in the lobby because there were no open seats, and she was provided blankets to stay warm.”
A registered nurse (RN) assigned Cheyenna an Emergency Severity Index of 3, which is considered “urgent.” An RN is also alleged to have assigned her a Modified Early Warning System (MEWS) score — which evaluates a patient’s physiological state based on heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate, body temperature, mental state, and urine output — of 4 (a MEWS score of 3 is “considered critical and requires the patient to receive extra attention.”)
A doctor documented Cheyenna as critically ill “with significant risk to decompensate and even death, requiring prompt bedside evaluation and intervention,” the complaint noted.
In addition, a triage nurse is alleged to have entered standing orders that were signed by a physician, with the orders including a comprehensive metabolic panel.
However, this test was not completed until approximately 5 hours later, “apparently after she had died,” the complaint stated, adding that the doctor said that the test showed Cheyenna was severely hypokalemic.
“All the above signify a patient as being in critical condition and requiring immediate rooming and assessment by a physician,” the complaint noted. “Had the metabolic tests been timely performed, staff would have had enough time to diagnose her pancreatitis and correct the potassium imbalance.”
Ultimately, Costello alleged that Providence Everett leadership “failed to ensure that their staff was trained competently, and/or given the essential resources to recognize and assess a critically ill patient and take the proper interventions and/or provide the requested needs to mitigate a serious patient safety risk.”
Healthcare providers at Providence Everett “did not meet the standard of care to keep Ms. Costello safe by mitigating preventable and predictable harm,” the complaint concluded.
Costello is seeking damages of a yet-to-be-determined amount.
A spokesperson for Providence Everett did not immediately return a request for comment from MedPage Today.