Healthcare News & Insights

Do your worst-case-scenario plans go far enough?

Could your hospital keep running in the most dire of circumstances, such as 10 feet of floodwater in your city? Several lawsuits are claiming it should. Pendelton Memorial Methodist Hospital in New Orleans just settled a negligence case filed by the family of a former patient. Althea LaCoste, 73, died after Hurricane Katrina left the hospital flooded, without power and with no way to transport patients out of the area.

LaCoste, who had congestive heart failure and diabetes, was brought to the hospital by her family before the storm, to deal with complications from pneumonia.

By all accounts, staffers did a heroic job trying to keep LaCoste alive after the storm — hand-pumping air into her lungs for hours in the darkened building.

Her family is now suing — not for medical negligence, but general negligence.

Methodist originally fought the suit, saying Katrina was an “act of God” that couldn’t be foreseen — or protected against — and that LaCoste’s poor health meant she may not have survived even if she had been transported to another hospital.

But the hospital’s own records show it had previously identified building projects that would have better protected the hospital. Among the projects the hospital management had identified but never actually started: moving a key generator from the first floor to the roof, specifically to protect against losing power during a major flood.

This week, the hospital settled the case. The terms of the settlement were sealed.

But several cases in New Orleans are still pending, including another suit against Methodist filed by the family of a 58-year-old woman who died in the same ward as LaCoste.

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