Death in ER under review
Albany Med: Patient was aggressive, medicated; staffers involved on leave
Albany Medical Center Hospital and city police are investigating the death of a patient who was being restrained in the emergency department Wednesday night, the hospital’s chief medical director said Friday evening.
Dr. Dennis Mckenna said employees involved in the incident have been placed on administrative leave.
The death followed a 911 call at about 7:40 p.m. Wednesday reporting that a man who appeared intoxicated was harassing people at Central Avenue and
Manning Boulevard, near Swinburne Park, Albany police spokesman Officer Steve Smith said.
After speaking with the 45-year-old man, officers determined he was possibly “in crisis,” Smith said. Officers called an ambulance to take the man to the hospital for a medical evaluation.
One of the officers rode in the ambulance with the man and left the ER at 8:30 p.m., once the patient was transferred into the hospital’s care, Smith said.
An hour later, police were called back to Albany Med for a report of a patient acting “combative and aggressive,” Smith said. “When officers arrived, the patient was already unresponsive and being cared for.”
Mckenna, during an unusual Friday evening press conference that was not attended by police, said the man arrived at
the emergency room acting aggressively and staff members tried to calm him verbally.
When that didn’t work, a doctor ordered that medication be administered, “with the agreement of the patient,” Mckenna said. When the patient continued to be aggressive, the staff restrained the man and gave him a second dose, Mckenna said.
Immediately afterward, medical staff found that the man was not breathing and did not have a pulse, the doctor said. Efforts to revive the patient failed.
Mckenna would not say how many employees have been placed on administrative leave, a move he described as routine for such investigations. He said that hospital staff and the man both suffered injuries during the struggle.
Mckenna said trained hospital staff can apply restraints to wrists and ankles, or across the chest, if a patient is a danger to themselves or others. Medical personnel must check the pulse of patients and monitor them after restraints are used, he said.
“The process is highly regulated,” Mckenna said.
Mckenna said that the need to restrain a patient who is acting in an aggressive manner “similar to this happens often.” But in Mckenna’s 20 years on the job he has not had a circumstance where a patient has died during the process, he said.
An autopsy will be performed by an independent forensic pathologist and the hospital will also order a separate toxicology analysis. Results are expected in the coming weeks, Mckenna said.
Mckenna said the hospital was holding the press conference in an effort to be “fully transparent.” A hospital spokesman later said administrators decided to announce the investigation Friday evening after conducting an initial round of interviews.