A recent investigation into a fatal blood transfusion error at St. Luke's in Houston has uncovered startling deficiencies in patient care. The review, which was conducted by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), identified several lapses in basic care standards and failures to correct systematic problems that had already been brought to the attention of hospital officials.
The incident that prompted the investigation was a blood transfusion in December that killed a 75-year-old patient. The victim had B+ blood type but was given A+ plasma due to mislabeling. According to ProPublica, the patient received blood that was drawn from an ER patient a few days prior. Rather than being discarded, a new label was placed over the vial containing the ER patient’s blood sample and it was used in the transfusion. The next day, the victim suffered multiple bouts of cardiac arrest and died.
The CMS report revealed a pattern of blood labeling errors at St. Luke's over the preceding months. Investigators identified several warning signs of unsafe practices that had not been addressed, many of which had already been discovered by an internal hospital committee a year ago. In total, 122 incidents of blood-labeling errors were identified from September to January.
The investigation uncovered several factors contributing to the lapses in patient care, including a short-staffed nursing crew that had not received adequate training to identify adverse reactions to blood transfusions. The review also pointed out that the hospital laboratory had too few workers to detect potentially fatal labeling errors.
The CMS report comes less than a year after St. Luke’s heart transplant program lost Medicare funding due to a failure to address issues contributing to an outsized number of surgical complications and patient deaths—a serious blow to a hospital that was once considered among the nation’s best for cardiac care.
Following the botched blood transfusion, St. Luke’s dismissed four top executives including former hospital President Gay Nord. Several changes have since been announced including improved training to detect blood sample labeling errors and enhanced systems for hospital staff to report patient care concerns to senior leadership.
Steps to Take After Falling Victim to a Medical Error
If you suffered an injury or complication due to a medical mistake, your health should be your top priority. Visit a doctor immediately for an evaluation.
You should then contact a medical malpractice attorney to discuss your rights. You may be entitled to compensation for any medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering resulting from the medical error. If a member of your family has died due to medical malpractice, you may have grounds for both a survival action and a wrongful death claim.
Discuss Your Case with a Houston Medical Malpractice Lawyer
Attorney Chelsie King Garza has an extensive background representing people who have suffered injuries or lost loved ones due to medical mistakes. She has helped several clients with cases against St. Luke’s.
Chelsie offers free consultations and represents clients on a contingency fee basis. To schedule a case review, call 713-893-8808 or use our Contact Page to send us a message online.