Nurse fired after man dies in Cayuga Medical Center ED waiting room

The New York State Department of Health opened an investigation into Ithaca, N.Y.-based Cayuga Medical Center following the death of an unnamed patient in the medical center's emergency department waiting room last month, according to the Ithaca Journal.

According to CMC officials, the 52-year-old man arrived at the ED at 6:07 p.m. Jan. 19 after a witness discovered him asleep on the floor of a convenience store. He was reportedly conscious and fully alert upon arrival at the medical center, according to the article. However, he was found dead in the waiting room at 8:32 p.m.

After conducting an internal investigation, officials discovered one of the contract nurses on duty at the time of the incident "falsified her triage documentation," David Evelyn, MD, CMC's vice president of medical affairs, told the Ithaca Journal. Dr. Evelyn said the medical center discovered video evidence that shows the nurse did not ask the patient routine questions and did not measure the patient's vital signs she later reported in her records.

"She said [triage] was done in the waiting room," Dr. Evelyn said. "We see [the patient] in the waiting room, but the two hours he's in the waiting room, the nurse doesn't approach him at all. Vital signs are logged when he's already in the room, and she was at a desk."

Dr. Evelyn said the nurse, a contract travel nurse who was not new to the hospital, was terminated after video review and interviews.

Following the incident, CMC officials contacted the DOH and the medical examiner. The results of the autopsy have not yet been disclosed, according to the article.

Officials said the medical center made several changes to protocol following the incident, including assigning a triage nurse to cover the waiting room at all times. CMC also instituted safety briefings for all shifts.

"Obviously this is a serious event, and we view it as a defining moment for us to say how do we look at our processes and how do we change processes so something like this will never happen again," Deb Raupers, RN, the hospital's vice president of patient services, told the Ithaca Journal.

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