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Vegas Hospital Blamed in Patient Deaths

Nevada Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie is highlighting staffing problems at a state psychiatric hospital in Las Vegas for the substandard nursing care which resulted in two patient deaths last April.  This Nevada lawmaker spoke Tuesday at a Legislative Committee on Health Care meeting, saying, “A person died under our care because the medical protocols were not followed.  That’s just completely unacceptable.”

This meeting follows a federal audit of a Las Vegas inpatient psychiatric facility operated by Southern Nevada Adult Mental Health Services.  Last April a suicidal man was admitted to the facility after a failed suicide attempt.  He hung himself in the Las Vegas hospital.  Federal auditors found no evidence that he was monitored at the facility.

In the second case of patient death, a patient transferred to the Las Vegas hospital died of cardiac arrest shortly after admittance.  Officials discovered that staff failed to examine this patient when he was brought to the facility.

The director of this Las Vegas mental health services center, Jonna Triggs, admits that policy violations were made and that steps are being taken to place more supervisors on duty.  She sited staffing shortages as a major culprit in these patient deaths.  During the time of these deaths, the facility had over 13 vacancies in it 70 full-time nursing positions.  The day the patient hung himself, 18 staff members had called in sick.  Triggs added that since the time period covered by the audit, the Las Vegas hospital has hired 12 new nurses.

The problem of staffing shortages is far from solved.  Next spring, a new psychiatric hospital in Nevada will begin admitting 150 mentally ill patients.  Assemblywoman Leslie cautions that this hospital cannot be opened without sufficient staffing or people will die.  Triggs said at least 99 new nurses need to be hired for this 150-bed facility.

Carlos Brandenburg, Trigg’s boss has suspended her, stating that staffing shortages are no excuse for substandard nursing care.  She has since filed action against Brandenburg claiming the suspension was wrongful retaliation for speaking publicly about the system’s problems.

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