Steuben Nurse?s License Revoked for Releasing Patient During Severe Snowstorm

June 4, 2010

For Immediate Release

Contact: Kate Simmons (207) 626-8577

Attorney General Janet T. Mills announced today that the Maine State Board of Nursing revoked the nursing license of John Zablotny, 44, of Steuben, for incompetent nursing practice and unprofessional conduct.

On January 1, 2008, Mr. Zablotny was the nurse supervisor at Down East Community Hospital when he allowed an elderly and disoriented patient to be discharged from the hospital during a severe snowstorm.

The patient was admitted to the DECH on December 27, 2008 for treatment of abdominal pain. During the day on January 1, 2008, a snowstorm developed and the patient, while still receiving pain medication, began asking to leave the hospital. Nurses advised the patient he was too weak to leave the hospital, and that his family was not able to return to the hospital to provide him with transportation due to the storm.

That evening, Mr. Zablotny, the supervising nurse, provided the patient with a form for the patient to sign if he was leaving the hospital against medical advice. Prior to the patient?s discharge, Mr. Zablotny failed to review of the patient?s medical records to determine the patient?s medical status, which included the medications administered to the patient. Mr. Zablotny failed to properly assess the patient?s medical condition and ignored the advice of other staff members that the patient was confused and weak. The patient signed the discharge form, and Mr. Zablotny pointed the patient to the front exit of the hospital unescorted. Against the advice of hospital staff, Mr. Zablotny did not call the local police department. He also did not verify that the patient had transportation or a specific destination and did not ensure that the patient was properly clothed.

The patient left the hospital at approximately 8:20 pm and was wearing a pair of brown slippers, socks, pants and a flannel shirt. Between 8:00 pm until 6:00 am the inner set of hospital doors were unattended and locked from the outside and the patient would be unable to get back in through the doors he exited. At the insistence of the patient?s family, the police were called at 9:25 pm to search for the patient.

The patient?s body was found on the afternoon of January 2, 2008 approximately 18 feet from the hospital building wall. The medical examiner determined that the patient died of hypothermia and opiate toxicity.

?Nurses have a moral and ethical responsibility to use common sense and compassion to protect the patients that they care for,? stated Attorney General Mills. ?Anything less puts patients lives at risk.?

Mr. Zablotny?s nursing license was revoked for two years. He must also pay the cost of the hearing and a fine of $1,500.