Vanderbilt nurse's error killed patient, hospital under review with Medicare

    Vanderbilt University Medical Center (FOX 17 News)

    A Vanderbilt nurse made a deadly error and now the hospital has taken steps to ensure it doesn't lose Medicare.

    Inspection reports from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and obtained by FOX 17 News show a nurse gave a stable patient the wrong medication, sending that patient into cardiac arrest that led to their death. The nurse nor the patient have been identified.

    The Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Medicare reimbursement could have been in jeopardy as federal officials demanded assurances the hospital will install safeguards to prevent future errors.

    ALSO SEE l How did a Vanderbilt nurse's crucial mistake kill a patient?

    The deadly error happened back on Dec. 26, 2017, two days after the patient was admitted for headaches, swelling of the brain and other related symptoms.

    A physician ordered 2 milligrams of Versed, a drug used to treat anxiety – but the nurse administered 10 milligrams of Vecuronium, a deadly dose of the paralyzing agent often used for muscle relaxation during surgery.

    A report said this incident was never reported to the Tennessee Department of Health as mandated.

    CMS said Thursday it has accepted Vanderbilt's plan of correction and Medicare billing will not be terminated at the hospital. CMS said termination of Medicare is a "last resort."

    The hospital is now undergoing an ongoing review to "protect the health, safety and welfare of patients serve by the facility."

    Here's a statement from Vanderbilt:

    VUMC was notified of an adverse finding by the Tennessee Department of Health after an on-site survey involving a patient who died in December 2017 following a medication error. In reviewing the event at the time it happened, we identified that the error occurred because a staff member had bypassed multiple safety mechanisms that were in place to prevent such errors. We disclosed the error to the patient’s family as soon as we confirmed that an error had occurred, and immediately took necessary corrective actions (including appropriate personnel actions). We will continue to work closely with representatives of Tennessee Department of Health and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to assure that any remaining concerns are fully resolved within the specified time frame,” said John Howser, Chief Communications Officer, VUMC.


    In a termination letter obtained by FOX 17 News, CMS states that it would have ended Vanderbilt’s Medicare reimbursement beginning on Dec. 9 if the hospital doesn't comply.

    CMA said Vanderbilt did not participate in the following qualifiers for the program: patient rights and nursing services.

    ALSO SEE l Malpractice attorney compares Vanderbilt deadly error to 'death sentence' for a hospital

    Since the plan was accepted Thursday, Vanderbilt's Medicare is not in jeopardy - but under review.

    In 2017-18, Vanderbilt University Medical Center had 1.9 million ambulatory visits and more than 70,000 emergency room visits. The hospital employs more than 23,000 people. It’s been named among the “Best Hospitals Honor Roll” of the nation’s top 20 adult hospitals and the number one hospital in Tennessee and the Nashville area.

    This is a developing story and has been updated. Count on FOX 17 News for the latest.

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