The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

State News

July 5, 2013

United Hospital replacing its lift chairs due to death

BRIDGEPORT — United Hospital Center is replacing 300 lift chairs after one patient was killed and another was injured.

President Bruce Carter tells The Exponent Telegram that hospital officials determined the chairs are a safety risk, and they are spending some $400,000 to buy reclining chairs for patients that don’t have the lift feature.

They should arrive within 60 days.

“Even though it’s expensive, we determined that the chairs are too much of a safety risk, and we can’t tolerate that,” Carter said. “We’re very concerned about this.”

The fatal accident occurred several months ago, Carter said. The patient was confused and accidentally hit the lift-activation button.

The patient then slipped out of the chair as it was lifting and suffered a fatal head injury.

The other patient suffered minor injuries.

Carter believes the accident resulted from a design flaw. He says frail, confused or overweight patients could easily press the activation button by accident because it’s located on the chair’s arm.

“It should have been designed so that only the staff could activate the chair,” he said.

The manufacturer has met with administrators.

“We hope that they change their design,” Carter said.

The hospital bought the chairs to help patients lift themselves to a standing position, without assistance from a nurse. Carter said the idea was partly to help nurses avoid back injuries. It was also to help get patients moving, which helps speed healing.

Carter said officials tried to find safer way to use the lift chairs, pre-screening patients’ abilities first.

“But a patient’s ability to function is constantly changing,” he said. “There was too big of a chance for error.”

Hospital publicist Matt Chisler said there was ultimately no choice but to replace the lift chairs.

“We have to keep the patients’ safety in mind, first and foremost,” he said.

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