This case involves an 88-year-old patient who fell and suffered injuries while at a hospital. The patient was being accompanied by a nurse to the bathroom. Once in the bathroom, the nurse left the patient’s side. There were no grab bars or any other such aids in the bathroom, so the patient leaned against what he perceived as the wall for support. What he leaned against was actually a shower curtain which was the same color as the walls. The patient fell and suffered a compression fracture in his back. An expert in hospital building standards was sought to review the case and comment on the responsibility of the hospital to ensure rooms are kept in compliance.
Question(s) For Expert Witness
- 1. What safety features are most typical of hospital bathrooms? Are there specific codes that mandate these features?
- 2. Are there any circumstances under which hospital rooms do not need to be upgraded to meet ADA or other building codes?
Expert Witness Response E-135453
There are frequently circumstances under which hospital rooms do not need to be upgraded to meet ADA or other building codes. Most states allow for grandfathering of any current code requirements, including ADA, until construction is done in that area of the building. However, some states have a) a path of travel upgrades forcing an incremental percentage of construction upgrades throughout the hospital and b) a percentage of hospital rooms required to meet ADA either per building type or across the entire health campus depending upon the interpretation of local, state and federal requirements. There are handicapped rooms and non-handicapped rooms and percentage allowances depending upon the type of unit and/or level of care, etc. Both the ADA and Facility Guideline Institute (assuming adoption by reference) into state law will address minimum standards. Some hospitals have in-house or system standards that demonstrate a standard of care above the minimum to meet patient care needs.