- Associated Press - Friday, February 12, 2016

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - The hospital where a black woman died after she was forcibly removed from the emergency room by a white police officer was cited for 10 “deficiencies,” including failing to properly examine the woman when she complained of difficulty breathing, state health officials said.

The secretary for Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration said the problems at Calhoun-Liberty Hospital in Blountstown were so egregious that the 25-bed facility will face fines and could be suspended from the Medicaid program if the problems aren’t fixed by March 1. The hospital must submit correction plans by next Friday.

“Our agency takes very seriously our responsibility to ensure the health and safety of all patients and to hold any health care facility that fails to do so accountable to the fullest extent of the law,” Secretary Elizabeth Dudek said in a statement Thursday.

The review comes after the death of Barbara Dawson, a 57-year-old woman who was treated in the emergency room Dec. 21 but refused to leave when she was discharged because she didn’t think she was OK.

She was handcuffed by Blountstown police Officer John Tadlock and collapsed when he tried to put her in a patrol car. She died about 90 minutes later. Her family has hired attorney Benjamin Crump’s law firm, which has handled cases including Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown. And lawyer Daryl Parks said recently that because of the health and law enforcement issues involved, it is “a civil rights case of modern proportions.”

The Florida agency reviewed 24 emergency room visits and found violations with two of them, including Dawson’s. The names of both patients were redacted, but the details of Dawson’s case make it easy to identify her as Patient 10 in the report.

The 79-page report cited the nursing staff for failing to follow hospital policy when it didn’t notify a physician or conduct an assessment to address Dawson’s complaints and released her without her concerns being properly documented.

In the other case, a patient in the emergency room was never treated. The ER was staffed by a nurse practitioner, who was not able to dispense medication. The patient told investigators that they never saw a physician or the nurse practitioner during the visit.

Dash cam audio and video released last month by Blountstown police showed a nearly 18-minute gap between the time Dawson collapsed and when she was taken back to the emergency room for a second time.

Hospital CEO Ruth Attaway said the facility has “extremely pro-active about making improvements” and is committed to meeting the deadlines set forth by the state agency.

“The care we provide our residents is critical; we will not lose sight of that priority,” said Attaway, who will hold a news conference Friday with civil rights leader the Rev. R.B. Holmes in Tallahassee to speak more about the report.

The Blountstown Police Department, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Florida Department of Health are also investigating. Federal health care officials are reviewing the state report.

The investigations are also being monitored by Gov. Rick Scott’s office. In a statement, Scott spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said the governor appreciates the state agency “holding Calhoun Liberty Hospital accountable.”

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