Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia is facing a lawsuit filed by a second-year psychiatry resident who was repeatedly stabbed in the face reportedly by a patient wielding a lunch-tray metal knife and sharp pen in February.
The complaint, filed June 16 in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas by “Dr. A” and her physician husband, “Dr. B,” is alleging gross and corporate negligence on the part of the 515-bed nonprofit hospital because it failed to “properly triage” the patient for a history of violence and criminal background, potential for agitation, or psychosis.
The hospital, which is part of the University of Pennsylvania Health System, did not have cameras to monitor the floor, nor did it properly medicate the patient who attacked her or inspect him for implements that could cause harm, according to the filing.
Additionally, security personnel did not promptly come to her aid as other providers and students hid inside a room during the attack, and there were no panic alert buttons in the patient’s room, the complaint said.
Plaintiff’s attorney Brett Kaminsky said in a written statement to MedPage Today that “the evidence will show that the hospital and its security team failed to adequately protect the safety and well-being of the doctor, which allowed this vicious attack to occur.”
Pennsylvania Hospital “lacked proper safety protocols, procedures and training sufficient to prevent, or at a minimum, help mitigate the attack once it began,” he noted.
Kaminsky added that the Feb. 23, 2021 attack was not an “‘isolated incident’ as reported by the hospital,” given a previous attack on a nurse at the facility in 2020.
In addition to the hospital, the complaint also named the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania, the hospital’s parent company; Allied Universal Security Service, which provided security for the hospital; and Rakeem Anderson, the patient alleged to have attacked Dr. A.
Asked for a response to the lawsuit, a University of Pennsylvania spokesperson wrote in an email: “Ensuring the safety of our patients and staff in all settings is a top priority across Penn Medicine, and we continuously evaluate and enhance our processes in furtherance of this commitment. Pending review of this complaint, we are unable to comment further at this time.”
According to the lawsuit, the February attack occurred after Dr. A and a medical student entered Anderson’s room for examination and assessment of the patient.
When Anderson learned that he was not being discharged, he stood up, prompting Dr. A to retreat in order to keep 6 feet of physical distance in line with COVID-19 precautions.
Anderson then asked Dr. A: “Are you scared of me?”
He “then raised his right hand, lunging towards Dr. A and the medical student.” He “grabbed Dr. A’s hair, yanking her backwards, punching her head with his fist, before slamming her head on the floor multiple times,” causing “Dr. A to become disoriented and bleed from her head, nose and face into her eyes which obscured her vision.”
Anderson then began hitting and stabbing Dr. A in the face, head, neck, arms, and hand with a metal knife and sharp pen.
About 10 to 15 nurses yelled for him to get off of Dr. A, prompting the patient to advance at the nurses and medical student with the knife, the lawsuit said.
“Dr. A was left in the hallway, by herself, covered in blood, badly injured and unable to move” when the patient came back at her, “and proceeded to violently attack her a second time.” Meanwhile, “a medical student, nurses and other hospital employees watched and screamed in horror,” the lawsuit claimed.
“In the middle of the vicious attack, the assailant, Mr. Anderson, turned to face the nursing staff, wielding his knife and pen, prompting the staff to retreat and lock themselves in a room.” Dr. A was left beaten and bloodied, alone, in the hallway, unable to escape, the lawsuit continued. “Not wasting the opportunity, Mr. Anderson turned and attacked Dr. A again, stabbing Dr. A and slamming her head into the floor over and over again, until finally a brave member of the hospital staff was able to pull him off and Dr. A was able to break free.”
Security personnel still had not responded. “No security codes were called before, during or after the attacks on Dr. A” and “no security guard was stationed on the neurology floor before, during or after the attacks,” the complaint said.
The lawsuit alleged that the hospital treated Dr. A poorly after the incident, failing to communicate with her or her family for days after the attack, and eventually by email only. The hospital also did not offer counseling to Dr. A after her attack and injuries.
The plaintiffs, Drs. A and B, filed this complaint using pseudonyms “due to fear of repercussion and fear of public judgment given the culture of concealment amongst medical providers,” the lawsuit stated. Dr. B, her husband, is a co-plaintiff claiming that he was “deprived of the aid, assistance, services, comfort, guidance, solace, financial support, and consortium of his wife, to his great detriment and loss.”
The complaint accused the hospital’s graduate medical education program of “misleadingly characterizing the attacks as ‘an isolated incident,’ in a duplicitous attempt to conceal … similar attacks” that had occurred, and which are the subject of a different lawsuit.
As a result of the attacks and the hospital’s subsequent treatment of Dr. A, she has suffered numerous injuries, including scarring, bruising, decreased sensation in her hand, paresthesia, concussion, amnesia, post-traumatic stress disorder, post-concussion syndrome, fear, nightmares, anxiety, embarrassment, decreased concentration, pain, exhaustion, disfigurement, and multiple medical procedures. She has also incurred medical expenses and lost the ability to work for long periods of time and future earning capacity.