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News: A first-time mother-to-be arrived at a hospital in active labor. As she reached the entrance to the labor and delivery area, she gave birth and the newborn fell to the floor. The jury found the hospital negligent and awarded the patient $37,000. The amount was reduced by $1,000 for the comparative negligence of the mother.
Background: When the expectant mother began experiencing signs of active labor, she contacted her midwife-clinician, who advised her to go to the hospital. Just as the pregnant woman reached the entrance to the labor and delivery area, she delivered the child, who dropped to the floor. The claimant contended, and the hospital defendant did not dispute, that the pregnant woman was not given instructions or a map on where to go when she arrived at the hospital. Nor was she given a tour of the labor and delivery area, although she had visited the hospital for many prenatal classes. The court found that there was no evidence that any preparation for the mother’s arrival was made and accordingly found the hospital liable for ordinary negligence.
Although the plaintiff’s expert testified that the defendant failed to realize that the woman was in the final stage of labor and her delivery was imminent, the court found no evidence that accepted standards of care were violated. As such the court rejected the contention that members of the medical staff were guilty of malpractice. Thus, a decision was entered in favor of the claimant for $37,000, which was reduced to $36,000 for the woman’s comparative negligence.
What this means to you: "If the plaintiff did indeed deliver at the entrance of the labor and delivery area, it is unclear what a tour of the facility or a map could have done to get the patient to delivery room much sooner," notes Leilani Kicklighter, RN, ARM, MBA, DFASHRM, president of the Kicklighter Group in Tamarac, FL.
"Had the mother-to-be, in fact, been given a tour and a map leading to where she was expected to present upon the onset of labor, it seems that in this instance it would not have mattered very much. Whether she had been shown the way to and instructed to go to the emergency department, admitting, or directly to the maternity area, the patient she made it as far as she was going to go and not knowing where to present seems to have made little difference in the outcome. One can assume she did not enter the hospital through the emergency room, because we know according to COBRA, she would have been examined before transferring to the L&D [labor and delivery]. Obviously, since the patient delivered at the entrance to labor and delivery, how could anyone have been expected to have had the opportunity to examine her to make a determination that she was even in labor? Fortunately, the jury also believed that this lack of directions did not constitute medical malpractice, but if anything untoward or even unexpected occurs in a hospital, some fault will probably be found with the institution, and this case is no exception in that regard.
"It is customer as well as patient service to provide a tour and a map of a hospital when a person is going to have a baby or elective surgery. These are the instances in which you and the patient know that they will be presenting for admission. More specifically, because pregnancy and delivery are not usually states of illness, they are states of well-being and part of the natural evolution of life. Most hospitals deal with mothers/parents to be in an extremely customer-friendly manner. Hopefully, this defendant hospital will take a good look at the customer relations programs aimed at prenatal and labor and delivery patients, and, in particular, see fit to offer all prenatal patients maps and a tour as appropriate," concludes Kicklighter.
• Sontania Bell, indiv. and as m/n/g of Ania Bell, inf v. State of New York, New York County (NY) Supreme Court, Index No. 92843.