State in­ves­ti­gat­ing fa­tal jump at UM hospi­tal

Pa­tient broke 10th-floor win­dow, of­fi­cials say

Baltimore Sun - - MARYLAND - By Sarah Mee­han and An­drea K. McDaniels smee­han@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/sarahvmee­han

Po­lice and state health reg­u­la­tors are in­ves­ti­gat­ing af­ter a man broke a win­dow on the 10th floor of the Univer­sity of Mary­land Medical Cen­ter and jumped to his death last week.

The Bal­ti­more Po­lice Depart­ment re­sponded to a call from the hospi­tal at 22 S. Greene St. at about 9:35 p.m. June 4, ac­cord­ing to a po­lice re­port. Of­fi­cers found the vic­tim, a 47-year-old man, ly­ing un­con­scious with a faint pulse, sev­eral cuts and bro­ken bones on a third-floor ledge at the hospi­tal build­ing, ac­cord­ing to the re­port.

He was taken to Shock Trauma, but pro­nounced dead shortly af­ter 10 p.m., ac­cord­ing to po­lice.

Homi­cide de­tec­tives are in­ves­ti­gat­ing the man’s death. The state health depart­ment’s Of­fice of Health Care Qual­ity also is re­view­ing the in­ci­dent.

The in­ci­dent is the lat­est high-pro­file case in­volv­ing a pa­tient at one of the Univer­sity of Mary­land Medical Sys­tem’s hos­pi­tals. The medical sys­tem was cited by fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tors af­ter staff at its Mid­town cam­pus in Jan­uary dis­charged a woman wear­ing only a hospi­tal gown onto the street in frigid tem­per­a­tures.

A widely shared video taken by a psy­chother­a­pist showed the woman dis­ori­ented and un­able to speak. Health sys­tem of­fi­cials apol­o­gized for the in­ci­dent, but called it an iso­lated case. The hospi­tal’s CEO was re­placed and new poli­cies were en­acted.

One pa­tient rights ad­vo­cate said the lat­est case shows the prob­lems with pa­tient safety at the state’s hos­pi­tals. A re­cent re­port by Leapfrog ranked the state’s hos­pi­tals 47th in terms of safety. Ad­vo­cates have tried for the last three years to get leg­is­la­tion passed in the Gen­eral As­sem­bly to bet­ter pro­tect pa­tients.

“Clearly it wasn’t a safe en­vi­ron­ment if he was able to break the win­dow and get out,” said Anna Palmisano, a mi­cro­bi­ol­o­gist and founder of Mary­lan­ders for Pa­tient Rights.

Hospi­tal staff told po­lice the man was be­ing treated for a high heart rate on the 10th floor of the hospi­tal’s north wing when he “re­fused to take his medicine and be­came ag­gres­sive.” The man, who was stay­ing in a gen­eral in­pa­tient room, at­tempted to strike a staff mem­ber with a com­puter, the re­port said.

He “then be­gan to scoot his body closer to the end of the bed then [he] lunged to­ward the win­dow,” the re­port said. The man broke the win­dow with his el­bow and jumped out the open­ing, land­ing on the third-floor ledge of the hospi­tal, ac­cord­ing to po­lice.

“This is a tragic, sad out­come that we do not know could have been pre­vented,” Karen Lan­caster, a spokes­woman for the Univer­sity of Mary­land Medical Cen­ter, wrote in an email.

She said the hospi­tal fol­lowed all ap­pro­pri­ate pro­to­cols in the care of the pa­tient. The hospi­tal is an­a­lyz­ing the in­ci­dent to bet­ter un­der­stand what hap­pened and will carry out any rec­om­men­da­tions made by reg­u­la­tors or its own team.

Those who in­stall win­dows on com­mer­cial busi­nesses said that in some cases it might not be that hard to break a win­dow. Many build­ings use stan­dard win­dows that if hit hard enough could break eas­ily. Tem­pered and se­cu­rity win­dows are harder to break.

The hospi­tal no­ti­fied the state and the Joint Com­mis­sion, the hospi­tal’s ac­cred­it­ing agency, about the in­ci­dent, Lan­caster said in an email.

“The loss of a pa­tient un­der such cir­cum­stances is up­set­ting to all of us and is a stark re­minder of the fragility of life,” she said. “We are ever mind­ful of the need for em­pa­thy and com­pas­sion to­ward all whom we en­counter, as we do not know the dif­fi­cul­ties they face.”

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