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Greene County Hospital Named In Civil Suit Linked To Death Of Worthington Woman

Last updated on Wednesday, May 23, 2012

(BLOOMFIELD) - Greene County General Hospital has been named in a civil suit linked to the 2008 death of a Worthington woman.

Nick Schneider of the Greene County Daily World reports that in the complaint, filed last week in Greene Circuit Court, Judy Dunigan, as the personal representative of the late Thelma E. Sears, is suing Greene County General Hospital located in Linton for alleged "breach of the standard of care" which contributed to the July 20, 2008 death of Sears.

The former Worthington resident was 85 years old at the time of her death.

In the complaint filed on behalf of Dunigan by Terre Haute attorney Eric Frey, it is alleged that Sears was a patient at Glenburn Home in Linton from July 5, 2008 to July 19, 2008. She had been admitted from Greene County General Hospital with an admitting diagnosis of weight loss, loss of appetite and recurrent falls.

"Thelma was known by Glenburn (staff) to be a risk for falls and was using a walker at the time of her admission," Frey wrote in the complaint.

A bone scan and X rays performed on July 10, 2008 indicated she had multiple stress fractures and chronic pain syndrome, according to the complaint.

On the evening of July 19, 2008, Sears was found on the floor in the hallway in front of her room's doorway. She was transferred and admitted to Greene County General Hospital at 11:12 p.m.

The late Bud McDougal, M.D., a contracted emergency room physician, examined Sears at 11:30 p.m. on July 19, 2008 and noted that she was lethargic, had lost her balance and fell with a possible injury to her pelvis.

McDougal, of Indianapolis, died Feb. 6, 2010. He was 70. McDougal, a former chief of surgery at St. Vincent's Hospital in Indianapolis, worked at the GCGH emergency room for 18 years.

"He did not note any acute distress, noted that he had reviewed Thelma's vitals and made a note that she was in mild pain. Dr. McDougal did not note that he performed a neurological examination and did not document or take any action to address the BP (blood pressure) of 239/96," Frey wrote in the complaint filed with the court.

Sears was discharged from GCGH at 12:01 a.m. on July 20, 2008 in "allegedly stable condition." No diagnosis was listed for the (hospital) visit, according to the complaint.
The patient arrived back at Glenburn Home at 12:30 a.m. with instructions to "watch her carefully," the suit noted.

Glenburn staff checked on her at 2:30 a.m. and she was noted to be sleeping.
At 4 a.m., Sears was found not breathing, and CPR was performed and 911 called. She left the facility by ambulance at 4:20 a.m.

Sears was pronounced dead on arrival at Greene County General at 4:30 a.m.
On July 24, an autopsy was performed by Dr. Roland Kohr, a Terre Haute forensic pathologist.

"Dr. Kohr found the cause of Thelma's death to be a closed head injury and left subdural hemorrhage with left and midline occipital scalp contusions. Dr. Kohr found the brain injury and consequent subdural hematoma consistent with a countrecoup injury to the brain," attorney Frey wrote in the complaint.

Frey concluded the complaint by stating that GCGH failed to provide Sears appropriate care and the care was below the standard of care for a hospital in that they failed to bring her elevated blood pressure to the attention of the emergency room physician, failed to make an appropriate neurological assessment and failed to examine the patient's head and scalp for evidence of injury.

In the suit, Dunigan asks the court for a judgment against the hospital in a sum "sufficient to fully and fairly compensate" for the injuries and damages that Sears sustained. Additionally, the suit asks for the cost of bringing the action and other appropriate relief.

No court date was immediately scheduled.

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