A Florida hospital is under investigation and has reassigned three staff members who were involved with an incident in which a patient was removed from the facility against her will and then died outside the hospital.
The incident occurred at Calhoun Liberty Hospital in Blountstown, FL, when 57-year-old Barbara Dawson arrived at the 25-bed hospital by ambulance on Dec. 20 with complaints of stomach pain, according to statements released by the hospital and local law enforcement. She was admitted and discharged after about five hours. Dawson refused to leave, and hospital staff called the police at 4:45 a.m.
Attorneys for Dawson’s family released video and audio of the incident in which the officer explained that she faced disorderly conduct and trespassing charges if she did not leave. Dawson is heard on the recording telling the officer, “You need to leave my room ... I am really feeling sick here.” She also stated repeatedly, “I can’t breathe.” After failing to persuade Dawson to leave, the officer charged her with disorderly conduct and trespassing. He disconnected her oxygen hose, handcuffed her, and led her to the police car. Dawson fell on the way, and her feet and knees were cut.
Police released a dash-cam video that shows Dawson collapsing as she was being escorted to a police patrol car. A police officer can be heard on the recording saying that he thinks Dawson “was being noncompliant by not trying to get in my car and faking it.” Police reports indicate that nurses from the hospital and the officer tried for 18 minutes to get Dawson off the ground and into the car.
At that point, a physician came to assess Dawson and stated, “This is totally different than what she was when I was discharging her.” He ordered Dawson readmitted to the ED, where she died at 6:24 a.m., from what the medical examiner’s office determined was a blood clot in her lung caused by obesity.
The Dawson family’s attorneys stated that they intend to sue the hospital for reasons including negligence. Three Florida agencies announced that they are investigating the incident: the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Florida Department of Health, and the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration.
Ruth Attaway, administrator and CEO of Calhoun Liberty, issued a statement after viewing the video, which received widespread attention in the media. She announced at a news conference that three medical staff members involved in the incident had been reassigned from their normal duties due to what she called a “lack of compassion.” One employee was placed on unpaid administrative leave, and two others were removed from patient care duties. The physician was not one of the employees reassigned.
Attaway also stated that the hospital was conducting an investigation of the incident and has formed a task force to find best practice recommendations for such situations. The task force includes physicians, hospital administrators, a pastor, a pharmacist, and community leaders, she said.