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Husband files lawsuit against hospital claiming wife was ‘worked to death’

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(CNN) — An Ohio man whose wife died in a car accident earlier this year is suing the hospital where she was a nurse, claiming she was “worked to death,” and that the hospital knew about it.

Jim Jasper’s wife, Beth, was killed on March 16 while driving home after a 12-hour shift.

The wrongful death lawsuit, filed last week, alleges that from 2011 to the time of her death, Beth Jasper’s unit at the Jewish Hospital in Cincinnati was “regularly understaffed,” causing some nurses, including Jasper, to work through breaks and pick up additional shifts.

Additionally, Jasper was routinely called into work while off duty because she was one of the few nurses qualified to work the unit’s dialysis machines, according to the suit.

“It needs to change. These nurses cannot be treated this way,” Jim Jasper told CNN affiliate WCPO, referring to the conditions he says led to his wife’s death. “They can’t continue to work these nurses and expect them to pick up the slack because they don’t want to staff the hospitals.”

Staff shortages and overextended shifts for nurses are a nationwide issue, according to National Nurses United, the nation’s largest union representing registered nurses, with nearly 185,000 members throughout the country. But wrongful death litigation stemming from staffing issues is unusual.

“Chronic understaffing is rampant throughout hospitals around the country,” said Bonnie Castillo, the union’s government relations director. “It is probably the single biggest issue facing nurses nowadays, and it’s not only affecting nurses, but patient health as well.”

Jim Jasper’s attorney, Eric Deters, said Beth Jasper may have fallen asleep before her car veered off the road, jumped an embankment and struck a tree. During her final shift, according to the lawsuit, Beth Jasper told other nurses she was “really stressed” and “hadn’t eaten.”

The lawsuit alleges that fatigue from being overworked contributed to the death of the 38-year-old mother of two.

“This is just a tragic situation,” Deters said Tuesday. “The hospital clearly did not take care of its own people, and it did so deliberately.”

Jasper’s lawsuit claims that hospital staffers, including his wife’s supervisor, were aware of the staffing problems and alerted the hospital’s parent company, Mercy Health Group. Her supervisor expressed concern to superiors that Beth Jasper was being “worked to death,” yet the hospital did nothing to deal with the staffing issue, the suit said.

Nanette Bentley, a spokeswoman for Mercy Health Group, expressed sympathy for the family, but declined to comment on pending litigation.

Castillo, the union representative, said “safe staffing ratios” of nurses to patients remain largely unregulated in the United States.

California is the only state with safe staffing ratio laws, Castillo said. The law requires nurses on general medical or surgical floors to care for no more than five patients at a time, and nurses in intensive care units to care for no more than two. The law has been in effect since 2004.

The union has pushed for safe staffing legislation around the country.

By Dominique Dodley

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8 comments

  • Terry Roberts

    Prayers for him and family and I agree. If you get by with understaffing, directors and such get big bonuses. They tear up medical teams of techs and nurses, to profit for themselves. My wife has been in this same situation. She is a surgical tech, right up there at the table with the surgeon, but her hospital works them hard, doesn’t have backups and they have to stand call, so if they have put in 8 to 12 hours,, get on their way home, they can be called back in and possibly work another 8 hours or so and are expected to be back at work at 7 am next morning. If I was a patient i would really be upset because these techs, nurses and doctors are doing lifesaving surgery in this condition. They need regulations. You regulate how long a truck driver can drive, how long a pilot can fly buy you put your life in the hands of tired surgical people or even nurses on the floor.

  • Anonymous

    Many hospital chains will no longer hire nurses without BSN’s so they can attain “magnet status.” There are plenty of nurses out there. Nurses don’t complained because they know they can be fired and “blackballed.”

  • Julie Cook

    Nurses are one of the biggest entities or groups in this country and have the power to change the culture of nurses if only we would stand together strong and get the same protection as firefighters & police officers with a nation wide union…we have patients’ lives in our hands. Exhaustion brings disaster when trying to care for multiple patients.

  • NCLEX Preceptor

    It’s very true that nurses nowadays are so overworked that they don’t even have time for themselves anymore, let alone time to mind their own safety when extreme exhaustion strikes. I say no to understaffing and overworked employees!

    I am a nurse educator and I help students prepare for and pass the NCLEX examination. If you are reviewing for the NCLEX Exam, you need to visit first my website: http://www.nclexpreceptor.com and read helpful tips on how you can understand and analyze NCLEX questions easily. We also have a free mobile app loaded with thousands of practice questions to help strengthen your knowledge base.

  • Tyna Huze Edwards

    As a former nurse I understand being overworked. They have you “over a barrel” because when they call you in pleading for help they know you’ll be concerned for the patient’s welfare first. I agree that nurses need to band together and stand up to the poor treatment they receive. When you are exhausted you put your own life in jeopardy as well as others. So sad that this man’s wife was killed but she may have easily hit someone else or being so exhausted made a mistake in her patient’s care as well. I hope this man wins his case and sets a precident that makes hospitals and nursing homes change their ways.