HCA, Nashville, faces a federal class-action lawsuit seeking $12.25 billion in damages to compensate victims of what the lawsuit alleges is the company's systematic understaffing of its hospitals since 1996. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Wichita, Kan., on behalf of all patients at HCA hospitals since 1996. The lead plaintiff is the widow of a man who died at Wesley Medical Center in Wichita after an operation in April 2004. The lawsuit alleges that HCA has trimmed nurse staffing as part of its strategy to build a $50 billion company and describes studies that indicate that higher patient-to-nurse ratios lead to higher mortality rates. HCA had revenue of $24.46 billion in 2005. The lawsuit does not provide citations for the studies. It alleges that HCA's patient-to-nurse ratio "is sometimes equal (to) 12 to 1," but does not cite a source. HCA intends to mount a vigorous defense, but the company will not discuss the specific allegations at this time, spokesman Jeff Prescott said. Prescott called the lawsuit "an obvious attempt to sensationalize and grab attention. Unfortunately, these are the kinds of lawsuits that are driving up costs," he said. -- by Vince Galloro
Class action accuses HCA of staffing too few nurses
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