After a medical and legal process that spanned more than 8 years and involved at least a dozen physicians, a OR nurse who suffered chronic injuries as a result of an on-the-job fall has been awarded worker's compensation benefits.
Deborah Beatrice, RN, a labor and delivery nurse at Columbia (Mo.) Regional Hospital, was helping to position a patient in March 2006 when she was struck with lower back pain. The pain, an aggravation of muscular strain she'd suffered in a fall on a slick OR floor a year and a half before, worsened the next day and spread to her leg as she transported a patient.
She reported the injury to her employer and was referred to a physician, whose imaging and diagnosis led to work restrictions and physical therapy. This was just the first step in a long journey toward treatment, however. As Ms. Beatrice's pain continued, and became more severe, over the coming months, and years, her treatment became a debate between her employer's insurance-driven authorizations and her chosen physicians over the recommended course of action and the necessity of surgery.
The chronic lower back and leg pain saw Ms. Beatrice terminated from her position in June 2006, after which she filed for worker's compensation, and was joined by groin pain in 2007, urinary incontinence in 2008 and bowel incontinence in 2009. The pain was seen by orthopedic, spine, psychiatric, urological and radiology specialists. In June of 2010, she finally underwent back surgery, which resolved and reduced many of her agonies, and 2 years later an administrative law judge awarded her $167,907 in permanent partial and temporary total disability benefits and related medical costs.
The University of Missouri Health System, parent company of the hospital Ms. Beatrice worked at when she suffered the injury, appealed the award to the state's Labor And Industrial Relations Commission. After the commission affirmed the award, UMHS appealed it in state court, arguing that it had not been "supported by competent and substantial evidence upon the whole record," but instead had given greater weight to the findings of Ms. Beatrice's physicians than to its own. In an August 5 ruling, however, the court disagreed, finding that the commission had acted within its powers and that the facts support its award.
Attorneys for Ms. Beatrice and the University of Missouri Health System did not immediately return requests for comment on the case.