The husband of a Cincinnati nurse says that the hospital where she worked cut staff so badly that his wife is now dead because of it.
Beth Jasper’s actual cause of death was a one-car accident. She was driving home in the early morning hours in her Honda Pilot SUV when she suddenly lost control of the vehicle, flying off Ohio’s Rot 50 and crashing into a tree.
Jasper died at the scene.
A lawsuit filed on behalf of her husband Jim Jasper names his wife’s employer, Jewish Hospital, and its parent company, Mercy Health Partners, as defendants in the suit, alleging that they essentially worked Beth Jaspers to death.
Jim Jasper said his wife, who worked in the hospital’s bone marrow transplant unit, had previously worked at a different Mercy-owned hospital, but left for Jewish Hospital when staffing cuts forced nurses to work excessive hours. But in 2011, Mercy bought Jewish Hospital and the cuts began.
To make up for the cuts, the hospital put fewer nurses on duty and made the nurses who came in for their shifts stay long past their scheduled hours.
Read the lawsuit here. Beth Jasper is pictured at right.
On the last day of Beth Jasper’s life, the 38-year-old mom of two complained of feeling “really stressed” and that she had not eaten during her shift, the lawsuit says. Because Jasper was certified to operate a dialysis machine, which only “a handful” of nurses at the hospital were, she was frequently called in to work on her off-duty hours.
On the day she died, Jasper was scheduled for a 12-hour shift but was required to work "an inderminate amount of time" more than that, says the lawsuit.
The hospital would keep only one such certified nurse on duty during any shift, forcing nurses to choose between abandoning patients and such simple necessities as bathroom breaks. Nurses would often simply keep working without using the restroom in order to avoid leaving patients alone.
Not only that, but Jasper was not crying wolf when she complained of her overly long hours. Her direct supervisor, Mary Alliston, warned Mercy administrators that the toll taken on nurses by the excessive work schedule was hurting not only the nurses themselves, but patients as well.
The hospital bosses “willfully and deliberately” ignored Alliston’s warnings, says the court filing.
In fact, Alliston was worried about Jasper in particular, telling her bosses that the nurse was being “worked to death” by the hospital.
The day after Jasper was killed, Director of Nursing Katy Smith called a meeting of the hospital’s nurses and expressed direct regret for Jasper’s death saying that the hospital “had dropped the ball” by understaffing the bone marrow unit.
A 2012 study published in the journal Health Affairs found that even though 80 percent of nurses said they were happy with long hours, the quality of patient care dropped and nurse burnout levels increased when nurses were required to work shifts of 10 hours or more.
SOURCES: WLWT TV (2) Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas, Health Affairs