LA County: Patient dies as nurse turns off audio alarm

Los Angeles County officials reported recently that a patient at Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center died after a nurse turned down an audio alarm on his vital signs monitor and then failed to notice that he was having a heart attack.

Incident latest in a string of problems

The incident was the latest in a string of difficulties for the county hospital. Federal officials have reported that three patients died in 2003 after similar instances in which nurses failed to watch their cardiac monitors. The hospital also has experienced a string of accreditation difficulties in recent months, with the Accrediting Council for Gradu-ate Medical Education shutting down several residency programs. The hospital’s trauma unit also is under fire for deficiencies and county officials have expressed interest in closing it.

In the latest incident, county investigators concluded that a nurse turned down the AIDS patient’s audio alarm and did not see the vital signs monitor’s flashing visual alarm. A resident who happened to pass by the room noticed the visual alarm but was not able to revive the man.

Los Angeles County officials also allege that the nurse falsified the 28-year-old patient’s medical chart, which listed him in stable condition more than an hour after he died. The nurse was suspended.