Lawsuit filed in Riveredge suicide case

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By Jean Lotus


The family of a woman who was found in a vegetative state June 8 after she was admitted into Riveredge hospital, and later died, has filed a lawsuit against the hospital and its parent company.

Martin Jensen, the husband of Kristine Jensen, 47, of Buffalo Grove, filed a wrongful death suit against Riveredge hospital and parent company Universal Health Services, Inc. Nov. 24 in the Circuit Court of Cook County.

The complaint states the hospital at 8311 Roosevelt Road was negligent in not assessing Kristine Jensen as a serious suicide risk. The complaint also says the hospital placed Jensen in a room with a heating vent with a slatted cover — a vent that state investigators had determined was a "ligature risk" in 2007 and had ordered the hospital to replace with a screened covering. The complaint further states the hospital carelessly and negligently failed to provide adequate supervision for Jensen and failed to give her the correct medication for her mental illness. The suit asks for in excess of $50,000 from both Riveredge and Universal Health Services.

Kristine Jensen was admitted to Riveredge the afternoon of June 7 after being transferred from a six-week stay at the Elgin Mental Health Hospital, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner.

When staff found her at 3:04 a.m. on June 8, she had threaded a bed sheet through the vertical slats of the heating vent and wrapped the sheet around her neck. She was unconscious and was transported to Loyola University Medical Center, where she died June 12. The medical examiner classified Jensen's death as a suicide.

According to the family's lawyer, Mark Vogg, Jensen was in custody of the Lake County Sheriff because a Lake County judge had ordered Jensen to participate in a mental health treatment plan instead of going to jail.

Jensen had been arrested in April and charged with violating an order of protection, forgery and burglary, according to the Lake County Sheriff. She was transported to Riveredge in the back of a Lake County Sheriff's squad car, and officers told the medical examiner she had attempted to strangle herself with a seatbelt on the ride between hospitals.

The suit states that the hospital inadequately categorized Jensen as requiring "routine" observation, which involved a staff member checking on her every 15 minutes. The suit said doctors should have categorized her as requiring one-to-one observation, the most intensive.

The suit asserts that sheriff's deputies told Riveredge staff Jensen had tried to harm herself in the squad car, and that it merited the most rigorous suicide-watch supervision.

In the medical examiner's report, Riveredge Chief Compliance Officer Sheila Orr told investigators Jensen had tried to "self-destruct in the Lake County police vehicle by using the seatbelt to choke around the neck."

But when Forest Park police interviewed an intake nurse at an investigation on June 19, she reportedly told police, "Jensen was certainly upset and sad, but never gave any indication that she would harm herself."

The interview took place in the presence of Orr, according to a Forest Park police report.

The intake nurse reportedly told police Jensen was in police custody for stalking her ex-boyfriend and his new girlfriend and was very "tearful," crying for most of the one-hour interview.

"Jensen felt her husband had lied to authorities, which resulted in her incarceration," the police report stated.

The suit also says Jensen was placed in a room with dangerous vent covers, which the hospital had known about since 2007.

According to an Illinois Department of Health and Human Services report, the "long-slat type" vent cover through which Jensen threaded the bed sheet presented "immediate jeopardy" to patients by creating a "ligature hazard."

Investigators on June 19 ordered the hospital to move 40 patients from rooms with long-slat type vent grilles and replace the vent covers with circular mesh screens affixed with tamper-resistant screws. The hospital swapped out all the vent covers within two days. The IDHHS reports said the hospital had started to switch out the vent covers in 2007, but had not replaced 34 covers, including the one in room 212, where Jensen was placed.

Jensen's mother told the Forest Park Review that Jensen was transferred to Riveredge without the knowledge or consent of any family member and that her husband, Martin Jensen, got a call from Loyola University Medical Center that his wife was in a comatose state.

Martin Jensen sold his house in Buffalo Grove over the summer and moved to Denmark with the two children, ages 15 and 17, Jensen's mother said.

Find out more in the Nov. 27 Forest Park Review.

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