Family says staff shortage at local hospital prevented loved one from getting timely treatment

A local family says a staff shortage at St. Luke's in Sugar Land prevented their loved one from getting treatment.

"Not necessarily saying that could have extended or saved his life, but we'll never know," said Jane.

To protect her grieving family's privacy, Jane is not using her real name. However, she's speaking out because she feels the hospital's leadership failed her father. She's concerned he may not be the only one.

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"Families may not be privy to the extent of care that their loved ones could have received," she noted.

Jane's father was in the ICU fighting COVID-19. She says staff attempted to do hemodialysis.

"On three separate occasions, my dad did not tolerate the hemodialysis. He literally crashed," Jane told FOX 26.

Finally, she says a doctor ordered a less stressful dialysis treatment called continuous renal replacement therapy or CRRT.

Jane says she was told it would be administered Monday evening when there was more staff. However, she says, he never got it.

"My sister then pulled me to the side with concern that the physician told her that the reason they did not start the CRRT was because two nurses called out," Jane recalled. She adds she called the physician who affirmed the staff shortage.

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Jane, also a healthcare professional, was in disbelief. She believes staffing should never be justification for why a patient does not receive treatment.

"I don't think [the hospital] leadership had a plan, a concrete plan, on how to support their nursing workforce. Yes, we have shortages everywhere but we do not [shortchange] patients because of shortages. That's when leadership steps in and they make a way," she emphasized.

Jane, however, feels the staff directly caring for her father was exceptional.

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St. Luke's Health sent the following statement to FOX 26:

"St. Luke’s Health respects and honors patient privacy and cannot comment on a specific patient, their medical history, or condition. We strive to provide compassionate care to our community when they need it and when they need us most, particularly during challenging times. We care for all patients in need of our care as long as we have the staff and resources to care for those patients. Additionally, we follow all the regulatory guidelines in regards to the acceptance of patients who need our care.We currently have the staff and supplies to expertly care for all patients, including COVID patients who require hospital-level care at our facility or through transfer for those requiring a higher level of care. As with every situation, we follow recommended treatments and protocols and have ongoing conversations with the families of these patients to ensure they understand the best course of treatment and whether a transfer is needed for patients whose conditions worsen and require a higher level of care."

Jane says she tried to get her father transferred once she realized the hospital's limitations, but the other nearby hospitals were full. She notes when a bed did become available the next day, her father's condition deteriorated so much he would not have survived the transport. He died early Wednesday morning.

She believes the hospital should have done more sooner.

"If the hospital knew that my dad was too sick, they should have said, 'we need to transfer him to a higher level of care to the medical center' before I requested for that," Jane added.

In response to the transfer attempt, St. Luke's Health states:

"Under normal circumstances, patients are transferred to the most appropriate care setting if it is safe to do so. In a crisis situation, such as an unprecedented surge in critically ill COVID-19 patients, most or all other nearby care centers may be experiencing similar constraints, which can make the transfer process more complex."