As we recently reported in late September, eleven-year-old Jessie Limas died at El Paso Children’s Hospital after surgery. Limas’ mother, Nancy Limas, a Texas Registered Nurse, detailed several instances of what she alleges were failures of the medical staff at the children’s hospital that led to the death of her child. We have now become aware of another death of a child at El Paso Children’s Hospital in 2021, according to a lawsuit filed in July.
According to the lawsuit, the toddler, almost two months old died at the children’s hospital after being admitted to the El Paso Children’s Hospital after an emergency room doctor at The Hospitals of Providence Horizon City diagnosed the toddler with “acute respiratory distress and acute bronchitis” and referred her to the children’s hospital because of the toddler’s “need for specialized care.”
On September 27 the toddler was admitted to the children’s hospital just before noon. Soon after being admitted, the toddler was intubated “due to her difficulty breathing” at the pediatric intensive care unit of the children’s hospital. According to the lawsuit, the toddler died three days later, on September 30 because the children’s hospital “egregiously mismanaged” the toddler’s care “from the time,” the toddler arrived at the El Paso Children’s Hospital.
The lawsuit goes on to describe that the toddler “never received antibiotics” while at the children’s hospital, “even though two separate sepsis warnings” were noted. Sepsis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “is a life-threatening medical emergency,” triggered by an infection. The CDC lists six warning signs that include a high heart rate, extreme pain and shortness of breath, among three others.
According to the lawsuit documents, an autopsy of the toddler revealed that the toddler had “two types of bacteria and staphylococcus (staph), a bacterium, when she died. In addition to not treating the toddler for the staph until late on September 29, the lawsuit alleges that the toddler was intubated with a tube that was too “small for her size and age.”
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The lawsuit goes on to allege that there were “clear warning signs at least five minutes” prior to the toddler going into cardiorespiratory arrest that were not acted upon by the medical staff attending to the toddler. If the children’s hospital medical staff had “recognized and acted upon” the warning signs, the toddler “would have, more likely than not, survived.”
The lawsuit concludes that the toddler died from the condition of “respiratory failure from rhinovirus infection” that “usually does not lead to” death. The lawsuit adds that “it is extremely rare to die of respiratory failure from rhinovirus for a previously healthy” infant.
The toddler would not be dead today had El Paso Children’s Hospital “appropriately managed” the toddler’s “ventilator, treat the bacterial pneumonia, recognize the change in vital signs, and successfully secure the airway” during the attempts to resuscitate the child, the lawsuit alleges.
El Paso News has documented the medical care negligent case against the El Paso Children’s Hospital filed by David Saucedo and his wife in the death of their daughter on August 31, 2019. Among the discovery documents in that lawsuit is the so-called Mayes affidavit where Dr. Thomas Mayes stated, under oath, that “Dr. Canales presents a real danger to his patients and should be removed from the practice of medicine.” Canales was the physician in the Saucedo case.
El Paso Children’s Hospital succeeded in convincing the judge in the case, Selena Solis, to remove the Mayes affidavit from the court files earlier this year. The removal of the affidavit is currently before the Texas Supreme Court, after Saucedo’s attorney’s appealed Solis’ order to remove the document from the court docket. The El Paso Children’s Hospital attorneys did not argue that the Mayes affidavit was wrong. Rather they argued that the affidavit did not belong in the public court file because Mayes was a member of the credentialing committee at children’s. According to the hospital’s attorney’s, Mayes’ observations of evaluating the doctors that are allowed to practice at the El Paso Children’s Hospital precludes him from publicly making a statement about the fitness of a doctor he, himself, reviewed before the doctor would be allowed to practice medicine at the children’s hospital. Mayes made his affidavit outside of the committee that the lawyers argued precluded him from making the sworn affidavit.
We also recently reported on the case of eleven-year-old Jessie Limas who also died at the children’s hospital last month.
All three cases are recent cases involving the death of a child at El Paso Children’s Hospital. All allege problems at the hospital with untrained staff and failures to provide proper medical care resulting in death in the cases.
The Children’s Hospital Finances And Lawsuits
The El Paso Children’s Hospital opened its doors on February 14, 2012 after a November 7, 2007 bond measure to fund the construction of the children’s hospital passed by a margin of 733 votes. The children’s hospital filed for bankruptcy in 2015. It emerged from bankruptcy after the County of El Paso, through the University Medical Center of El Paso (UMC), agreed to become the sole-owner of the children’s hospital.
According to county records, the El Paso Children’s Hospital was sued in 2018 after hospital staff were accused of breaking the arm of an eleven-year-old. Another lawsuit was filed in 2019, followed by the 2020 lawsuit filed by the Saucedo’s. The July 2023 case we are reporting today is the fourth case filed in recent years against the El Paso Children’s Hospital alleging substandard healthcare. The Limas case, if filed, would be the fifth case in recent years.
The Texas Health and Human Services Commission recently found the children’s hospital “was not in substantial compliance with some federal and state regulations” in a recent visit prompted by a complaint filed by Nancy Limas. The non-compliance finding was referred to the Centers of Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) for “noncompliance with the federal regulations.” The CMS can suspend federal payments for services to the El Paso Children’s Hospital if they determine that stopping federal payments are necessary.
Lawyer Comments About The Case
El Paso News reached out to Alfonso Bafidis, the lawyer representing the family of the toddler who died at the children’s hospital. Bafidis wrote in an email that “Tapas Agarwal, and I, represent the Atayde-Lopez family, a family who lost their beloved infant girl, Hazel Bree Atayde, while in the care of the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit of the El Paso Children’s Hospital.”
He adds, “this heart-breaking story is incredibly devastating and infuriating. The family remembers every small detail of the moments leading up to Hazel’s death.”
The attorney explains that the law firm “filed this lawsuit because the family wants justice and accountability.” He added that “it is our intention to fully investigate this matter, so that other families do not have to suffer what the Lopez-Atayde family are going through.”
Bafidis concluded in his email that “we know there are other El Paso families who have lost their children while in the care of the El Paso Children’s Hospital and we encourage anyone who has information about the management of this hospital to come forward.”