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Widow of swine flu victim files notice to sue Northside Hospital for medical malpractice

ST. PETERSBURG — Pinellas County's first confirmed H1N1 swine flu death case could be headed to court.

The widow of Craig Klindt plans to sue Northside Hospital for medical malpractice, claiming the hospital failed to adequately evaluate him when an ambulance brought him there July 25 with what his family says was a temperature of 105. Instead, the family claims, the hospital sent him home for bed rest without a medical evaluation.

Klindt was diagnosed with H1N1 almost two weeks later, and died on Aug. 8. He was 36.

The notice of intent to sue, filed Thursday, alleges that by failing to have a physician evaluate Klindt, the hospital violated the Emergency Treatment and Active Labor Act, which requires hospitals to provide care for anyone needing emergency treatment.

According to the notice, on July 25, 2009, Klindt had severe cold and flu symptoms, was lethargic and had a fever of 105 degrees.

He was taken by ambulance from the family's St. Petersburg home to the Northside Hospital emergency room, but was not admitted.

The notice claims the hospital didn't document Klindt's arrival or departure, didn't obtain and document his vital signs and failed to perform a medical screening evaluation as required by law.

Attorney Jeffrey Lee Gordon on Thursday sent the notice to the state and Nashville headquarters of Hospital Corporation of America, which owns Northside.

Debra McKell, an HCA spokeswoman, on Thursday said the hospital had not seen the complaint, and would not comment.

It has 90 days to respond to the complaint, Gordon said.

Klindt, who had an artificial valve in his heart, enjoyed an otherwise healthy life until July 23, when he came down with pneumonia, said Paulina Bernal, his mother-in-law, in an interview Thursday.

Two days later, the family called an ambulance when his temperature reached 105. His wife, Juliana Burckhardt, did not accompany him because she needed to stay home to look after their 18-month-old twins.

About an hour after the ambulance took him to Northside, Klindt called home and told his family to pick him up.

He told his family that after telling someone in the emergency room he had pneumonia and was taking medication for it, that person told him to go home, rest and continue taking the medication.

But when Klindt's condition did not improve after two days, Bernal said she took him back to Northside, where he was admitted and treated.

He remained at the hospital until he died Aug. 8.

Bernal said she and her daughter had asked the hospital what had happened on the night he was first brought there by ambulance.

"We asked someone why they didn't admit him. He was like, 'I'm not sure.' Bernal said. "No one knew. There was no paperwork, absolutely nothing."

Richard Martin can be reached at rmartin@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8330. For the latest in health news, visit www.tampabay.com/health.

Widow of swine flu victim files notice to sue Northside Hospital for medical malpractice 05/27/10 [Last modified: Thursday, May 27, 2010 8:52pm]
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