After 22-Hour Wait, Man Dies Unattended in North Carolina HospitalAug 21, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP The Associated Press is reporting on another sad case of medical malpractice. This time, a 50-year-old mental patient, Steven Sabock, died after workers at Cherry Hospital in Goldsboro, North Carolina left him in a chair for 22 hours without feeding him or helping him use the bathroom. Federal officials have threatened to cut off the facility’s funding and the state just deployed a team to help Cherry draft new procedures to ensure patients receive proper care. This, just two month after national media attention was focused on the case of Esman Green, the woman who was videotaped as she writhed on the floor for a full hour, ignored and unattended—despite workers clearly in the area—until she fell to her at Brooklyn’s Kings County Hospital Center (KCHC) on June 19.
An investigator’s report released Monday found that Sabock died in April after he choked on medication and was left sitting in a chair for nearly a full day at Cherry Hospital. Surveillance video showed hospital staff watching television and playing cards just a few feet away. In Green’s case, surveillance video was also used to show staff’s indifference and neglect to their patient.
Federal officials have threatened to cut off funding because of Sabock’s death and also in response to a report that a physician punched a patient after the teen bit the doctor. Department of Health and Human Services spokesman Tom Lawrence said the state team also may investigate what, if any, disciplinary action should be taken following Sabock’s death. Lawrence added that this is an isolated incident, but officials are concerned. “It’s not the kind of thing that we in our wildest dreams would expect to happen in our hospitals—in our wildest nightmares, I guess,” Lawrence said.
The investigation released Monday stated that Sabock died in April after Cherry Hospital nurses left him unattended in a chair and did not feed him or help him to the bathroom. The report said that Sabock sat unattended in the room over the course of four work shifts and that he ate nothing the day he died and had little food in the three days preceding his death.
According to Lawrence, the state has until August 23 to file a report with the Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services detailing what changes officials are making and that if the Centers rejects the report, federal funds will be ceased, effective September 1. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dempsey Benton said in a statement that nurses may be reassigned to provide more patient supervision and that officials are also ways to improve management of staff resources.
In the New York case, Green’s patient records were falsified and the New York Civil Liberties Union released a video confirming that Green slumped out of her chair and underwent convulsions as workers and fellow patients walked by her, doing nothing as she died. As a result, six people were fired. Also, KCHC has long been the subject of complaints and lawsuits by advocates for the mentally ill. The Department of Justice began investigating allegations of patient mistreatment at KCHC earlier this year.