CMS: 2 patient deaths resulted from failures by Kansas hospital staff

After CMS regulators said Overland Park, Kan.-based Pinnacle Regional Hospital put patients in "immediate jeopardy" in June 2018, the agency linked two patient deaths to several failures by hospital staff, according to NPR affiliate KCUR.

Travis Claussen had his right hip replaced Feb. 6, 2018, at Pinnacle Regional Hospital, formerly known as Blue Valley Hospital. The 40-year-old was readmitted to the hospital after developing a surgical-site infection. On April 9, 2018, Mr. Claussen's hip implants were removed, but his femur was fractured during the procedure. He was given large quantities of narcotics, including fentanyl, during the next 24 hours and was found unresponsive by a nurse April 11, 2018.

Mr. Claussen should've been transferred to another hospital with a higher level of care, Andrea Carabetta, PharmD, who was pharmacy director at the hospital until 2018, told KCUR. She said she believed he had been kept at the hospital "to keep the patient census up to meet CMS requirements."

"I feel like they killed him," Dr. Carabetta said.

In December 2017, 36-year-old Joseph Metz underwent spinal fusion surgery. He was discharged despite a high temperature and pneumonia — diagnosed posthumously — and was discovered dead at his home the next day.  

Both autopsy reports indicated fentanyl or oxycodone intoxication was a contributing factor in the deaths, the CMS report said. Narcan was not used, though Mr. Claussen's case "screamed of overdose," one staff member told CMS. 

In October, a representative of Mr. Metz's estate sued the hospital and two of its physicians, alleging negligence. The defendants denied allegations, claiming the injuries "were the direct and unavoidable consequence of Joseph Metz's preexisting condition."

Mr. Claussen's family filed a separate lawsuit Feb. 13, also alleging negligence.

The hospital did not return phone calls from KCUR seeking comment.

Pinnacle Regional Hospital filed for bankruptcy Feb. 12, 2020.

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