Las Vegas Sun

September 1, 2014

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health care:

Man’s suicide raises liability concerns for MountainView Hospital

MountainView Hospital

A 59-year-old Las Vegas man with psychiatric problems hanged himself Thursday morning in a bathroom at MountainView Hospital even though he was in a room equipped with cameras so he would be under constant observation, according to authorities and a source at the hospital with knowledge of the incident.

The death triggered a state Health Division investigation because hospitals are required to provide a sufficient level of care so suicides would not occur.

The Clark County coroner’s office confirmed the suicide and put the time of death at 8:26 a.m. Metro Police were not called by the hospital until 9:02 a.m., a Metro spokesman said.

The coroner’s office said the man’s family had been notified. The Sun does not identify suicide victims.

In a statement prepared for the Sun, the hospital said, “Suicide is a terrible tragedy, as it impacts the lives of those who are left behind. We are also concerned for our employees, and have offered counseling services to assist with the healing process.”

The hospital would not provide any other information out of respect for the family and because of patient confidentiality laws, the statement said.

Metro’s spokesman said the hospital called for officers because “a subject had attempted suicide and succeeded. The subject was found hanging in a bathroom.”

Metro called the case a suicide and determined there was nothing more to investigate, the spokesman said.

Nevada Administrative Code requires hospitals provide a comprehensive and accurate assessment of each patient’s needs and provide quality care based on the severity of their disease and unique needs. A suicide is considered a “sentinel” or “never” event — the type of incident that is reportable to regulators and not supposed to happen in a facility.

Dr. Ole Thienhaus, a psychiatrist and dean of the University of Nevada School of Medicine, had no knowledge of the suicide, but said hospitals are obligated to protect patients if they are aware of psychiatric problems that could lead to self-harm. If the hospital had no knowledge of any mental problems, Thienhaus did not think there would be liability for the death.

MountainView is part of the Sunrise Health System, which is owned by Tennessee-based Hospital Corporation of America. The hospital has had several other high-profile allegations of poor care in recent years.

In September a woman sued the hospital, alleging that nurses negligently allowed a rapist into her room. The lawsuit, which is still ongoing, alleged that in September 2007, when the woman was hospitalized for multiple sclerosis, the man told nurses he was the patient’s brother and gained access to her room in the middle of the night.

In October 2008, MountainView was at risk of being dropped as a participant in Medicare and Medicaid, the government’s insurance programs, because of infection-control failures. Inspectors found multiple infection-control violations, including blood on the floor of a lab and a physician assistant contaminating equipment with a bloody glove.

Sun reporter Steve Green contributed to this story.

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