Expectant mothers might enter a hospital maternity ward with a mixture of excitement and worry. Excitement that their infant is about to be welcomed into the world, and worry about the many things that can go wrong during a delivery. Of all the issues to think about, expectant mothers probably don’t consider nurse understaffing. They likely expect a hospital would recognize the importance of having enough nursing staff to ensure expectant mothers and their infants are properly cared for.
According to a report in the San Francisco Examiner, however, understaffing of the Kaiser maternity ward is a serious issue in at least one Kaiser Permanente hospital. This understaffing increases the odds of a catastrophic emergency happening, putting mother and baby in jeopardy of life-threatening consequences.
At Cutter Law P.C., we’ve fought against hospitals for their treatment of patients. Our attorneys have vast experience in representing patients harmed by medical systems that put patient safety last. We hold hospitals accountable for ensuring patients are cared for properly and safely. No mother or infant should have their health put at risk because a medical care provider cares more about profits than patients.
Nurses File Allegations Against Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Medical Center
Nurses working in the Kaiser San Francisco maternity ward filed a complaint with the state Department of Public Health, alleging their ward is routinely understaffed, causing unsafe conditions for expectant mothers and their infants. According to the complaint, nurse staffing ratios at the maternity ward in the Kaiser hospital frequently fall below recommended patient safety guidelines and/or violate the California Code of Regulations Title 22.
- Nurses assigned four mothers going through labor at the same time
- Nurses assigned three mothers going through labor at the same time
- Nurses assigned six antepartum mothers at a time (regulations allow no more than four antepartum mothers per nurse)
- A nurse assigned both a caesarean patient and a recovering labor and delivery patient at the same time (each patient should have had one-to-one nursing care)
- Babies delivered with only one nurse present
- Babies delivered in triage rooms
Kaiser San Francisco’s maternity ward includes the antepartum, labor and delivery, neo-natal intensive care and postpartum units. The nurses’ complaints cover all four units.
The nurses allege that because of the understaffing, to ease the burden Kaiser San Francisco downgrades a patient’s condition from severe to less severe not based on a nurse’s judgment but so the patient can be assigned fewer nurses.
Previous Allegations Against Kaiser Permanente
The complaints about Kaiser San Francisco are not the first Kaiser has received. In 2014, nurses complained about conditions at Kaiser Permanente Oakland Medical Center, noting that expectant mothers often spent hours in waiting rooms before they could be admitted to a delivery room. A nurse in that case said that with 20 nurses leaving in three years, only two positions at the Kaiser medical center had been filled.
In that case, complaints were related to other Kaiser Permanente hospital units as well, not just the maternity ward.
In 2016, a Kaiser nurses’ strike involving nurses at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles underscored their concerns about chronic understaffing that nurses said put hospital patients’ lives at risk. In support of their claim, the nurses reportedly compiled 800 incident sheets that showed unsafe staffing shortages in an eight-month period.
How Does Understaffing Affect Delivery?
Expectant mothers and their unborn or newly-born infants must be monitored closely to ensure the labor and delivery progress properly, and to ensure there are no complications immediately following birth. Incidents that happen during birth can arise quickly and put the health and safety of the mother and her baby at risk, causing catastrophic and permanent damage if not addressed immediately.
When Kaiser maternity wards and delivery rooms are understaffed, expectant mothers and their infants are not monitored adequately. Further, because the nurses are expected to cover more patients than they should they are often rushed and the potential for a disastrous error increases. Nurses attending to one emergency could be called to another, leaving mothers in labor without a nurse to watch them.
Even when mothers come into the maternity ward for monitoring—due to issues with the pregnancy such as decreased movement—they may not be put on the proper monitoring equipment right away thanks to staffing shortages. Wait times to go on monitoring equipment can reportedly be more than 30 minutes, which can lead to life-threatening issues for the baby.
Kaiser Permanente Injury Attorneys
Attorneys at Cutter Law have years of experience fighting on behalf of patients who have been victims of devastating medical injuries. We know how catastrophic an injury to an expectant mother or her infant can be, and we are dedicated to getting justice for both. When maternity wards are understaffed, lives are put at risk unnecessarily, either through improper patient monitoring or because overworked staff are more likely to make an error.
If you or someone you love suffered injuries as a result of medical malpractice, delivery room understaffing, or other issues at a Kaiser Permanente medical center, you need an experienced lawyer to ensure you obtain the best possible results from your lawsuit. Contact a personal injury attorney at Cutter Law today to discuss your claim. Our attorneys are available for a no-obligation consultation. We’ll go the extra mile to get justice for you and your infant.