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Lawsuit: Doctors at Novant Health abandoned the care of a 92-year-old woman, leading to her death in March 2020 from pneumonia. | News

A lawsuit filed late last month alleges doctors at Forsyth Medical Center neglected and abandoned a 92-year-old woman who died a day after being taken to hospital. The woman’s daughter sought medical attention eight times after her mother began having breathing problems, the lawsuit said.

Once a doctor saw the woman, she was rushed to the hospital’s intensive care unit, put on a ventilator and then placed on life support, the lawsuit said. She died hours later of pneumonia.

Olivia Thompkins was the mother of Renita Thompkins-Linville, who became the first black person to serve as Forsyth County Superior Court Clerk in 2019 after her nomination (she ran unsuccessfully for re-election). Her husband was the late David Thompkins, the first black man to serve as executive director of the Winston-Salem Housing Authority. And Olivia Thompkins worked as treasurer at the Kate Bitting Hospital Credit Union and business manager at Reynolds Health Center in Winston-Salem.

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According to the lawsuit, Olivia Thompkins died at 3:54 p.m. on March 26, 2020.

Lawyers Harold and Harvey Kennedy filed the suit March 28 in Forsyth Superior Court on behalf of Tina Thompkins, daughter of Olivia Thompkins who is the administrator of her mother’s estate. Olivia and David Thompkins had four daughters.

The lawsuit said Olivia Thompkins was taken to Forsyth Medical Center on the night of March 24, 2020. Tina Thompkins came to the hospital the next day and stayed with her until her death. According to the lawsuit, she asked nurses to suction her mother after Olivia Thompkins started having trouble breathing. During the suction, Tina Thompkins saw dark, bloody mucus coming out of her mother’s mouth. It was then, according to the lawsuit, that she began asking the nurses for a doctor to assess her mother.

There were three doctors assigned to her mother — Dr. Gregory P. Tarleton, Dr. Francisca O. Aluya and Dr. Ryan T. Barnes, according to the lawsuit.

“No doctor ever came to her mother’s room during this time,” the lawsuit said. “The doctors assigned to her care completely ignored her. They abandoned her.

In response to a request for comment from the hospital and the three doctors, a Novant Health spokesperson released this statement: “Under company policy, we are unable to comment on disputes in course or employment status.”

Efforts to reach Tarleton, Aluya and Barnes failed.

Late in the morning of March 26, 2020, a doctor came to assess Olivia Thompkins, the lawsuit said. She was immediately transferred to a respiratory unit and then rushed to intensive care. A few hours later, she was placed on life support. Before all of this happened, according to the lawsuit, she was never put on a ventilator, despite having breathing problems.

At 11:04 a.m. on March 26, 2020, when she arrived in intensive care, her oxygen levels were in the 70s, which is a dangerously low level, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit said she was never treated for pneumonia.

The lawsuit alleges that Tarleton, Aluya, Barnes and Novant Health “acted with a knowing and intentional disregard and disregard for the rights and safety of Olivia B. Thompkins”, and that the doctors “participated in the willful conduct and free, as attending physicians.”

The lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages in excess of $50,000.

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