Howard University Hospital Showing Signs of Serious Crisis

By Peter DePaolis

Malpractice Attorneys Serving Victims of Hospital Errors and Injuries throughout Washington D.C.

Initially, when Howard University Hospital opened its doors in 1862, it was notorious for its prestigious doctors and excellent care offered to people from all walks of life. However, the past ten years have brought dramatic changes to the facility.

Not only is the hospital facing severe financial distress, but the facility has had numerous accreditation issues and lawsuits that resulted in almost $27 million in wrongful death and medical malpractice cases since 2007. Out of the 675 claims filed against the hospital and six other hospitals in the area, Howard  University Hospital had the highest number of death lawsuits per bed compared to the other hospitals.

The $27 million which the facility has paid only represents 22 out of the 82 cases against the hospital, and most settlements were not made public. The facility has seen numerous citations for violating policies, poor oversight of medical residents, inoperable emergency room equipment, poor record-keeping, and an overly comfortable nursing staff.

A lack of leadership is part of the issue for the facility. It has no sustainable strategy for keeping hospital administrators in the facility; the hospital’s accountability issues are the main reason why directors are leaving. In some cases, the hospital has taken over a year to bill patients for services; because it already services a poorer area, it lacks funding and revenue. Furthermore, the residency programs are no longer accredited at the hospital, and it has slowly lost a variety of other programs that it needs to sustain.

Bad Care is Part of the Issue

Bad care is leading to more malpractice suits from the hospital. In fact, the hospital has a history of long wait times in the emergency room, and inadequate protocols. For example, a patient was taken to the hospital as a John Doe, because he was unconscious without identification. The nurse assumed that he was intoxicated; staff failed to conduct further testing that would have shown the patient had severe health issues. Before getting to the operating room, he waited several hours unattended on a bed, and died less than 48 hours after arrival. The man was not homeless, and he was not intoxicated. Instead, he was a New York Times reporter who had been mugged.

In another instance, a man arrived with a gunshot wound only to wait 70 minutes before receiving any medical attention. He died within minutes. Other cases involve patients being released when it was evident that they should not have been released from the facility. Overall, wait time in the emergency room was 113 minutes, compared to the national average of 27 minutes (and 79 minutes at other high-volume emergency rooms in Washington, D.C.).

The number of minutes that patients wait in Howard’s emergency room before admittance was 415 minutes, compared to the national average of 295 minutes.

There is No Excuse for Poor Quality Care

Hospitals administering such poor-quality care may have a lack of funding or staffing issues, but there is no excuse for such levels of gross negligence.

When a patient is injured in a hospital – whether due to staffing issues or misdiagnosis – that patient has the right to seek compensation for those injuries.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a local hospital, contact the attorneys at Koonz McKenney Johnson & DePaolis LLP to discuss your case. Schedule a free case evaluation now at (202) 659-5500 in the District of Columbia.

About the Author
Peter DePaolis joined the firm in 1980 and has since represented a large number of individuals involved in automobile collisions, truck accidents, bus crashes, defective products, and medical malpractice cases. A significant portion of Mr. DePaolis’ practice is devoted to working on behalf of people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related cancers. He has led his firm’s fight against the asbestos industry and has recovered over $30 million in damages for asbestos victims and their families.