State investigating after man jumps from window to his death at Baltimore hospital

Police and state health regulators are investigating after a man broke a window on the 10th floor of the University of Maryland Medical Center and jumped to his death last week.

The Baltimore Police Department responded to a call from the hospital at 22 S. Greene St. at about 9:35 p.m. June 4, according to a police report. Officers found the victim, a 47-year-old man, lying unconscious with a faint pulse, several cuts and broken bones on a third-floor ledge at the hospital building, according to the report.

He was taken to Shock Trauma, but pronounced dead shortly after 10 p.m., according to police.

Homicide detectives are investigating the man’s death. The state health department’s Office of Health Care Quality also is reviewing the incident.

The incident is the latest high-profile case involving a patient at one of the University of Maryland Medical System’s hospitals. The medical system was cited by federal investigators after staff at its Midtown campus in January discharged a woman wearing only a hospital gown onto the street in frigid temperatures.

A widely shared video taken by a psychotherapist showed the woman disoriented and unable to speak. Health system officials apologized for the incident, but called it an isolated case. The hospital’s CEO was replaced and new policies were enacted.

One patient rights advocate said the latest case shows the problems with patient safety at the state’s hospitals. A recent report by Leapfrog ranked the state’s hospitals 47th in terms of safety. Advocates have tried for the last three years to get legislation passed in the General Assembly to better protect patients.

“Clearly it wasn’t a safe environment if he was able to break the window and get out,” said Anna Palmisano, a microbiologist and founder of Marylanders for Patient Rights.

Hospital staff told police the man was being treated for a high heart rate on the 10th floor of the hospital’s north wing when he “refused to take his medicine and became aggressive.” The man, who was staying in a general inpatient room, attempted to strike a staff member with a computer, the report said.

He “then began to scoot his body closer to the end of the bed then [he] lunged toward the window,” the report said. The man broke the window with his elbow and jumped out the opening, landing on the third-floor ledge of the hospital, according to police.

“This is a tragic, sad outcome that we do not know could have been prevented,” Karen Lancaster, a spokeswoman for the University of Maryland Medical Center, wrote in an email.

She said the hospital followed all appropriate protocols in the care of the patient. The hospital is analyzing the incident to better understand what happened and will carry out any recommendations made by regulators or its own team.

Those who install windows on commercial businesses said that in some cases it might not be that hard to break a window. Many buildings use standard windows that if hit hard enough could break easily. Tempered and security windows are harder to break.

“You can punch right through one,” said Jamie Scott, general manager of Lindner Glass & Mirror in Baltimore. “All glass can break. If you hit it hard enough it can break.”

Caleb Kelly III, who works for Baltimore Glass Co. Inc., said most modern buildings use tempered glass, which is about four times stronger than what is called standard annealed glass. Tempered glass shatters when broken into small harmless pieces. Annealed glass breaks into jagged pieces that can easily cut someone.

Windows at higher levels tend to use tempered glass because of the potential for wind damage, Kelly said.

“The more rigid the glass is, the less movement,” Kelly said.

David Green, who works with a Nashville, Tenn., company that advises hospitals and other health care companies on communication strategies, said incidents like the one at University of Maryland Medical Center naturally raise concerns about how it might affect the reputation of a hospital. The best strategy for hospitals is to be as transparent as possible without violating patient privacy rules.

“A hospital’s work is built on trust,” said Green, vice president of Jarrard Phillips Cate & Hancock. “If you are entrusting your health and life to a hospital you want to be able to trust them.”

The hospital notified the state and the Joint Commission, the hospital’s accrediting agency, about the incident, Lancaster said in an email.

“The loss of a patient under such circumstances is upsetting to all of us and is a stark reminder of the fragility of life,” she said. “We are ever mindful of the need for empathy and compassion toward all whom we encounter, as we do not know the difficulties they face.”

smeehan@baltsun.com

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