Live Oak woman sues Jourdanton hospital, former nurse
By Kate Hunger
San Antonio Express-News
Web Posted : 07/11/2002 12:00 AM
JOURDANTON-A Live Oak County woman has sued South Texas Regional Medical Center and an HIV-positive nurse accused of injecting herself with pain medication from a supply intended for patients.
Filed last week in Atascosa County, the lawsuit names as defendants the Jourdanton hospital, its Tennessee-based owner, Community Health Systems, Inc., and Jacqueline Fillingim, the nurse.
Court papers refer to the woman bringing the suit as "Jane Doe" because of the stigma attached to HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, said her lawyer, Charles H. Peckham of Houston.
Peckham is seeking to have the suit certified as a class action to encompass the 1,100 former patients who received the injectable pain medication Demerol during the seven months Fillingim worked at the hospital.
The hospital revealed the possible contamination in March, almost three months after Fillingim left, and urged those patients to be tested for HIV.
The plaintiff, a 42-year-old mother of four, said she is awaiting the results of her second HIV test and worries she might have contracted the virus or passed it on to her family.
"I live with that fear every day," she said Wednesday.
The lawsuit alleges that the hospital and its owner should have done a better background check on Fillingim and were negligent in employing her, given the fact she previously had surrendered her license and had a history of substance abuse.
It also alleges that the hospital and CHS falsely portrayed the hospital as safe and that Fillingim was improperly supervised.
The lawsuit claims patients are entitled to damages for emotional distress and mental anguish resulting "from the fear of HIV infection" to the pain of the HIV tests themselves.
Rosemary Walsh, a spokeswoman for the hospital and CHS, said Wednesday that neither had been served with the lawsuit. After reading a copy of the plaintiff's petition, she disputed the plaintiffs' assertion that the hospital refused to provide follow-up HIV tests.
"The arrangements for that were very clear," she said. "We made reimbursements to physicians who had patients who required follow-up tests."
Fillingim worked at the hospital from June 4, 2001, until Jan 4.
CHS bought the hospital in November and was not operating it when she was hired, Walsh noted.
According to records with the State Board of Nurse Examiners, Fillingim voluntarily surrendered her license in 1995 and indicated she was in recovery for alcohol abuse when she sought reinstatement in 1997.
Her license was reinstated in 1998, on condition of mandatory therapy and drug and alcohol screening, provisions lifted in September 2000, according to agency records.
Fillingim has not been charged, although a criminal investigation has been opened. The State Board of Nurse Examiners filed a complaint against her in April, and Fillingim surrendered her nursing license soon after.
Peckham said Wednesday that efforts to serve Fillingim and the hospital with the lawsuit had so far been unsuccessful.
Efforts to reach Fillingim, who lives in Pleasanton, were unsuccessful Wednesday, and her lawyer, David Willborn, declined comment.
The hospital doesn't know whether any of the 1,100 patients tested positive for HIV, because many of them were tested elsewhere.
In any case, their results are protected by patient confidentiality laws, Walsh said.
"All of the experts agreed the opportunities for exposure here were extremely limited," she said. "We were just being extremely cautious. This is not the kind of thing you can share partial information on."
Walsh said she is unaware of any other lawsuits pending against the hospital or CHS on the same matter.
Sure hope shes referred to a peer assistance program. Wonder if there was any notation of prior license restricitons when license checked at hiring. Think because it's two strikes, she's out.
We found an unconscious anesthesiology resident on the floor of our med room with an ativan tubex sticking out of his arm. We've had other cases too but this is the first one that comes to mind right now. He was treated & sent for employee assistance......... & came back. He didnt lose his license - he was given help & wasnt even thrown out of his medical program. Same thing for the other doctors that have been in this situation. The nurses with substance abuse, however, were fired & reported to the state office of professional discipline to have their licenses revoked....... a bit of a double standard there - Until our union - (the New York State Nurses Association - NYSNA) - spearheaded a successful peer assistance program for our members with this problem. It TEMPORARILY suspends their licenses and provides the nurse with extensive treatment. The nurses of NYSNA then got the Governor to pass a law making this program available to all RNs in the state - whether they are a member of our assoc or not. RNs in these situations state-wide are now being given the same second chance that the doctors have always been given - to be helped, & get back their lives as well as their licenses.
Last edit by -jt on Jul 16, '02