Death increases tension between nurses, hospital

Judith Ming died at Alta Bates Summit Hospital after a replacement nurse apparently gave her the wrong medicine.
September 26, 2011 8:23:38 PM PDT
In the middle of a labor action at an Oakland hospital, a patient lost her life from a medication mistake. Judith Ming died at Alta Bates Summit Hospital after a replacement nurse apparently gave her the wrong medicine. Nurses who are locked out say it would not have happened on their watch.

Monday was the fifth day of the walkout. The regular nurses will be back on duty Tuesday, but it will be far from business as usual.

"This particular mistake was something I've never heard in my nursing career." Alta Bates Summit oncology nurse Alicia Torres said.

Though restricted by privacy laws from discussing specifics, Torres knows the circumstances around the death of Ming, her longtime patient. Sixty-six-year-old Ming died Saturday after a replacement nurse mistakenly gave the Oakland woman a fatal dose of the wrong medication.

It happened when Torres and her colleagues were locked out after their one-day strike last Thursday.

"To hear of this horrific event that occurred to this wonderful person is beyond me and it all could have been prevented," Torres said.

When it comes to administering medications, staff nurses say there is a strict process that involves at least three checks. The locked out nurses say it's a protocol that must not have been followed in Ming's case.

"We chose one day to make a stand for our patients and unfortunately, these employers are making it last longer," Childrens' Hospital nurse Martha Kuhl said.

In a statement, Alta Bates Summit accused the nurses' unions of trying to exploit a tragic accident for their own gain, saying, "We cannot lose sight that a family has lost a loved one, and a nurse is devastated by a tragic mistake."

"To many nurses, this was avoidable; it's made them angry, it's added a new tension to the bargaining situation," UC Berkeley labor relations expert Harley Shaiken said.

Multiple investigations by the hospital, the state Department of Public Health and Oakland police are underway. Police say they have interviewed the replacement nurse but she has not been detained in any way.


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