Emergency Department: Medical Director Not Liable for Lack of Physician and Staff Training on Protocol

March 24, 2014 | Healthcare Risk, Quality, & Safety Guidance

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​The Supreme Court of Georgia overturned an appellate court ruling that found a hospital medical director liable in the death of a patient whose physician and nurses did not follow the hospital's chest pain protocol. The plaintiff, the deceased patient's daughter, alleged that the medical director had a duty to supervise emergency department (ED) physician and nurse training on the protocol and that he was negligent because he failed to ensure that these healthcare workers were properly trained.

While the appellate court found that the medical director "assumed responsibility to train" the ED healthcare workers and thus owed a legal duty to patients to ensure that physicians and nurses were well trained in hospital policies, the supreme court disagreed, stating that the medical director did not have any responsibility to "control or direct" how care was provided to the patient by physicians and nurses. The supreme court also stated that the risk to the patient was not elevated due to the "misunderstanding" of the physician and staff regarding the requirements of the chest pain protocol, as there was no evidence that this was the medical director's fault, nor did it increase the risk of harm. (Herrington v. Gaulden,No. S13G0577...

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