2 sue Hastings Hospital over 2018 protocol lapse

BY D. SEAN ROWLEY
Senior Reporter
01/29/2020 11:30 AM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Two women have filed a federal class action lawsuit against the Cherokee Nation W.W. Hastings Hospital stemming from a 2018 safety breach in which a nurse re-used medication-filled syringes on patients. ARCHIVE
TAHLEQUAH – Stemming from a 2018 safety breach at W.W. Hastings Hospital affecting more than 180 patients, two women alleging emotional distress filed a federal class action lawsuit on Jan. 22 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma.

Each plaintiff is asking for $125,000, claiming the potential exposure to HIV, hepatitis C and other blood-borne diseases resulted in severe stress. One woman says she was not told of her exposure until she contacted the hospital. The other plaintiff claims she was contacted by the hospital and told she would require blood testing every three months for nine months.

Though filed in federal court in Muskogee, on Jan. 23 the case was moved to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma in Oklahoma City.

The women are represented by Sallisaw attorney Harry “Fourth” Scoufos IV, who said in a TV news interview: “You can imagine the stress and anxiety that that would cause, and this wasn’t a situation where they could go in and just immediately find out whether or not they were infected.”

Scoufos said other patients might join the suit. He said during the initial efforts to notify those affected, there were patient complaints, ranging from not being told the purpose of the tests to delayed notification of results.

Cherokee Nation Chief of Staff Todd Enlow on Jan. 27 issued an official statement from the CN concerning the lawsuit: “The Cherokee Nation is reviewing the filing and remains committed to providing quality health care for our tribal citizens and all our health services patients.”

“Cherokee Nation Health Services made policy revisions that were met and approved by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services in 2018, including additional training and monitoring and reporting procedures.”

“Cherokee Nation Health Services strives for a culture of transparency and encourages employees to speak up about concerns of patient safety and outcomes.”

“The Cherokee Nation continues to advance its health system recently opening a new state-of-the-art outpatient health center, constructing a new OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine at Cherokee Nation medical school, adding more specialty services, employing a great workforce and reducing patient wait times.”

After an investigation on July 16-18, 2018, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said a nurse had reused medication-filled syringes on patients. The nurse was identified as John Baker, son of former Principal Chief Bill John Baker.

The younger Baker was named after he waived his right to privacy, and the investigation suggested that up to 186 patients were at risk, though follow-up tests did not find any diseases transmitted due to the “lapse in protocol.”

The investigation reported that John Baker “confessed to using the same medication-filled syringe on multiple patients,” which included patients who had HIV or hepatitis C. The report also found that he had reused syringes for six weeks before other hospital personnel noticed.

“This nurse also confessed that he used the same needle and syringe on several different patients until the needle was dull, usually at the end of the day,” the report stated.

John Baker resigned his position and issued an apology to those affected, and the investigating agencies gave recommendations to prevent recurrence.

The Oklahoma Board of Nursing on Sept. 26, 2018, placed John Baker’s nursing license on probation for two years. It ordered that during the probationary period a registered nurse must supervise his work in a hospital in compliance with guidelines that were established by OBN. He was also ordered to complete four remedial nursing education courses and pay an administrative penalty of $5,000 to the OBN and the cost of the investigation, which totaled $3,789.68.
About the Author
Sean Rowley was hired by the Cherokee Phoenix at the beginning of 2019. Sean was born a long time ago in Tulsa, where he grew up and attended Booker T. Washington High School as a freshman before moving to Pawnee County and graduating from Cleveland High School in 1987. 

He graduated sans honors from Northeastern State University in 1992 with a bachelor of arts in mass communication with emphases in advertising and public relati ...
david-rowley@cherokee.org • 918-453-5560
Sean Rowley was hired by the Cherokee Phoenix at the beginning of 2019. Sean was born a long time ago in Tulsa, where he grew up and attended Booker T. Washington High School as a freshman before moving to Pawnee County and graduating from Cleveland High School in 1987. He graduated sans honors from Northeastern State University in 1992 with a bachelor of arts in mass communication with emphases in advertising and public relati ...

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