New York City has agreed to pay $2 million to avoid a potential wrongful death lawsuit from the family of a woman who died on the emergency room floor of a city run psychiatric hospital after waiting over 24 hours for medical attention.
The hospital waiting room death of Esmin Green, 49, on July 2, 2008, at Kings County Hospital Center, received national attention after a video surfaced of the Jamaican immigrant being stepped over by hospital staff as she lay dying.
New York City’s Health and Hospitals Corporation accepted full responsibility for her death, and the City and Green’s family say that the settlement will not affect criminal investigations currently underway.
Green, who suffered from depression, died from blood clots that moved from her legs to her lungs. In the video, Green can be seen kicking her legs in agony on the floor as staff ignore her. She was dead for an hour before a nurse came and checked her pulse.
A report released in February by the U.S. Department of Justice indicated that employees at King’s County Hospital Center (KCHC) falsified records to hide the psychiatric hospital’s negligence on several occasions, including Green’s emergency room death. It also found incidents of patient-on-patient violence that went unaddressed by staff, fire safety concerns, sanitation issues, inadequate medical care, and the disturbing use of a variety of medications solely for their effect as a sedative.
“Conditions at KCHC are particularly disturbing. Substantial patient harm occurs regularly due to KCHC’s failure to properly assess, diagnose, supervise, monitor, and treat its mental health patients,” the report states. “Conditions at KCHC are highly dangerous and require immediate attention.”
The report noted other tragic incidents of hospital neglect and abuse at the psychiatric facility, including a 14-year old patient that was sexually assaulted by another 14-year old patient, and a six-patient melee that resulted in one of the patients requiring surgery.
The city has begun to make changes at the hospital, and has pledged to reform the facility. Since Green’s death, the city has hired more than 200 new doctors, nurses and other staff positions, has reduced crowding in the waiting room, and two of the hospital’s top administrators were replaced. However, even with the improvements, patients have an average eight-hour wait in the psychiatric emergency room, down from a 27-hour average wait at the time of Green’s death.