St. Peter’s sued over 2009 swine flu death

2013-09-08T00:00:00Z St. Peter’s sued over 2009 swine flu deathBy SANJAY TALWANI, Independent Record Helena Independent Record
September 08, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Survivors of a woman who died in 2009, allegedly from conditions including the so-called swine flu, have filed a lawsuit against St. Peter’s Hospital in Helena and others, charging that she received inadequate care in the emergency room.

Brittney Niccole Norton was 27 when she came to the emergency room on Oct. 10, 2009, with severe flu symptoms, according to a complaint filed in District Court in Helena Sept. 5 by attorney John Doubek on behalf of the representatives of her estate.

She left the emergency room after about two hours “without being seen,” according to the complaint, and was referred to her primary care provider.

The complaint says one of her twin sons had tested positive for the H1N1 virus.

“Brittney should not have been permitted to leave the hospital without being seen and treated effectively by trained medical providers,” the complaint says. “It was negligence for those providers who saw Brittney Norton in the early afternoon hours of 10/10/2009 to simply advise her to follow up with her treating physician.”

She returned to the emergency room that evening around 7:30 again complaining of burning in her chest, tightness, a dry unproductive cough, anxiety, restlessness and wheezing, according to the complaint. She was advised again to see her primary care provider and discharged around 9:45 p.m., according to the complaint.

Her father called an ambulance two days later, and responders gave her a nebulizer treatment, according to the complaint, and she told the ambulance crew she would return to the hospital in her own vehicle. Her father drove her back to St. Peter’s.

This time, hospital staff decided she needed to be transferred to a pulmonologist in Great Falls, according to the complaint. She was flown to Benefis Health System where a breathing tube was administered and she died a short time later.

“The care Brittney Norton received (at St. Peter’s) was substandard,” the complaint says.

The lawsuit names St. Peter’s, Lewis and Clark Emergency Physicians and one of its doctors, although it doesn’t explicitly explain his role in the incident.

Hospital spokeswoman Peggy Stebbins did not respond to a request for comment.

According to the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, there were 18 deaths from the H1N1 virus in the state from August 2009 to May 2010, along with 182 confirmed hospitalizations.

There were also 808 lab-confirmed cases of H1N1, but DPHHS spokesman John Ebelt said that figure represents “the tip of the iceberg” because not every person seeks medical treatment for influenza, and even those cases may not be confirmed by testing as H1N1.

Most of the deaths were of people 45 or older, according to a DPHHS newsletter in late 2009.

According to published obituaries, Norton was born in Spokane, Wash., and lived in Helena the last two years of her life, working for the Montana Department of Justice as a clerk in the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Reporter Sanjay Talwani: 447-4086, sanjay.talwani@helenair.com.  Follow Sanjay on Twitter @IR_SanjayT

Copyright 2016 Helena Independent Record. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(3) Comments

  1. JustMy2Cents
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    JustMy2Cents - September 09, 2013 3:36 pm
    St. Peter's owns the Emergency Room, however, the doctors are NOT employed by the hospital, they are independent practitioners.
  2. hpesoj
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    hpesoj - September 08, 2013 11:16 pm
    I've thought of having a Medic-Alert bracelet made that says "TAKE ME ANYWHERE BUT ST. PETER'S". I accompanied my friend to the hospital for a routine MRI of his knee. They had him change, etc, and once he realized they seemed to be doing too much prep for such a simple test, he asked the technician what they were doing...they were preparing to do a myleogram. A very painful test that includes a spinal puncture, and they had the wrong order in his information. Last year I went to the ER with some severe injuries. I had a broken eye-socket and a broken neck. I didn't learn that there, though. The doc at St. Pete's was dismissive of me and my symptoms and sent me home and told me to take advil for my headache. My friend who took me in is a nurse, and she was afraid the doctor was wrong and she drove me to Missoula where I was properly diagnosed and promptly had major surgery to repair my neck (two plates and four screws). The doctor at St. Pete's was more interested in getting back to his nap than listening to me or ordering imaging. He did neither. I refuse to utilize St. Peter's. A day off work and a trip to Missoula beats any care I've ever received at St. Peter's. Maybe this lawsuit will shine some light on St. Pete's. The Hospital is, in my opinion, aptly named, however. A stay there may improve your chances of meeting St. Peter.....
  3. codyfrisch
    Report Abuse
    codyfrisch - September 08, 2013 3:31 am
    Substandard care from St. Peters Hospital. I've never heard such baloney!

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