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On behalf of his client Mildred Spires, Wichita, Kansas, attorney Lawrence Williamson, Jr., filed suit in federal court on April 10 against the Hospital Corporation of America (HCA), claiming that the HCA's corporate philosophy of placing profits before patients has resulted in unsafe nurse-staffing levels and resulted in Spires's husband's death and poor care for patients in all HCA-owned hospitals. They are seeking class-action status and ask for more than $12 billion in damages to be paid to HCA patients. Ms. Spires's husband, Joseph Spires, died in April 2004 while a patient in the ICU at Wesley Medical Center in Wichita, a facility owned by the HCA. The lawsuit charges that the "HCA has engaged in systematic under-staffing of registered nurses throughout all of its hospitals. This systematic practice places patients at increased risks for various health ailments, including infections, bed sores and death."


Cheryl Johnson, RN, president of the United American Nurses, AFL-CIO, commented, "A hospital that chooses unsafe RN staffing levels generates higher patient costs and invites preventable medical errors, adverse patient outcomes and deaths, and, inevitably, lawsuits." To read the complaint filed in court, see