Correction: This story initially incorrectly identified the traveling nurse in this story as Lisa Carrow who is a receptionist, not a nurse. The embedded lawsuit, which The Ithaca Voice originally cited, also incorrectly identifies the traveling nurse as Carrow. We apologize for our error.
ITHACA, N.Y. — A lawsuit was filed against three nurses, a doctor, and Cayuga Medical Center after a man died while waiting for treatment in the emergency room in January, court documents state.
The lawsuit was filed Monday by Allen Phelps after his brother, 52-year-old Ithaca man Lloyd Phelps, died in the CMC waiting room on Jan. 19.
Emergency room deaths are rare and resulted in the incident being reported to the Department of Health and the Office of Professional Discipline, an investigative arm for nursing licensing.
“It hasn’t happened here in probably — ever — that we know of,” Doctor David Evelyn, Vice President of Medical Affairs at CMC, previously said.
The lawsuit states that the hospital is vicariously responsible for Phelps’ death, which was allegedly caused by “negligence.”
Other defendants listed in the lawsuit are Doctor Steven Elliott and the Cayuga Emergency Physicians LLP, along with nurses Virginia Lincoln and Kathy Fox and recpetionist Lisa Carrow.
Corporation X is also listed in the lawsuit — whose name is not currently known by the lawsuit applicant — as the corporation or business that employed a traveling nurse who alleedly failed to take Phelp’s vitals when he was admitted to CMC.
According to documents, the following are the events leading up to the death of Phelps:
On Jan. 19, Phelps was at an Ithaca grocery store around 6 p.m. with “complaints of shivering, gray skin tone, and sweating.”
An ambulance transported him to Cayuga Medical Center where Lincoln, Fox and Carrow were working in the emergency room and Elliott was the supervising emergency room physician.
The lawsuit states that the defendants “failed to follow multiple hospital policies and procedures for the emergency room,” including neglecting to correctly triage, continually monitor and properly treat Phelps.
In an interview with The Ithaca Voice, hospital officials previously said a traveling nurse — yet to be identified — falsified medical records and did not take Phelps’ vital signs when he was admitted.
“It appeared to us that there was a discrepancy between that story that the triage nurse was giving us and what we can see on the tapes,” Evelyn said. “We were able to determine that the triage nurse did not take vital signs, even though there were vital signs in the record.”
According to security cameras in the ER, hospital officials said Phelps was helped into the waiting room and transitioned into a seat from a wheelchair. Then, at 8:23 p.m., the nurse went to check on him or take him to a back area for further treatment. He did not have a pulse and efforts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful. He was dead by 8:23 p.m.
The footage from the security cameras has not been released to the public.
Hospital officials said the traveling nurse was suspended from her duties while an internal investigation was taking place, and her contract was eventually terminated.
Efforts by The Ithaca Voice to reach the traveling nurse for a comment were unsuccessful.
In addition. the lawsuit makes two other significant charges against Cayuga Medical Center.
First, the hospital was reportedly aware that complaints had been made about understaffing issues in the emergency room leaving patients “at risk of injury,” a claim hospital officials previously denied.
The other is that the hospital “was careless and negligent by having failed to appropriately train hospital employees, agents, and/or staff members regarding its emergency room policies and procedures.”
Syracuse-area attorney Attorney Jeff D. DeFrancisco is representing Allen Phelps in the lawsuit against Cayuga Medical Center.