Houston hospital patient found dead in bathroom, CMS says

A patient was found dead in a bathroom at Houston-based Ben Taub Hospital's emergency department in April, according to a CMS report made public July 23 and cited by the Houston Chronicle.

The 66-year-old patient sought treatment at the Ben Taub Emergency Center April 12 for abdominal pain, loss of appetite and vomiting. Staff members conducted a triage assessment of the patient but did not review lab results, which indicated he was in critical condition. Records show staff members discharged the patient after several unsuccessful attempts to locate him in the ED waiting room. The patient was later found unresponsive with no pulse in a hospital bathroom hours after he was first evaluated.

The report comes about a month after news broke that CMS found serious care deficiencies at the hospital. Regulators investigated Ben Taub after the hospital reported a patient death linked to "an ineffective process in patient monitoring and communication of critical lab values," according to George Masi, CEO of Houston-based Harris Health System, which operates Ben Taub. The specific circumstances of the event were not made public until this week.

"Harris Health's leadership takes this matter very seriously," Mr. Masi wrote in a June 26 email to staff. "Since the completion of the [Texas Health and Human Services Commission] survey, Harris Health made substantial strides in achieving full compliance and will continue to work diligently to meet all of the applicable standards of care."

Harris Health submitted a plan of correction to CMS in June, which outlines various steps the system has taken to ensure patient safety. Efforts include implementation of a new system to ensure the timely assessment of patient vital signs and a new process to communicate critical lab values.

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