Nurse in Emily Rice case fired over new misconduct accusation

The jail nurse who didn’t get fired after treating a dying Emily Rice the way, as has been described, “the way someone might treat a dog,” has been fired from his position following a recent accusation of misconduct. The nurse, Robert Kelly Costin, has said that — apparently just like the Rice case, which resulted in a recent $3 million settlement — it’s not his fault.

According to The Denver Post, Costin was fired by Denver Health Medical Center the week before Thanksgiving because “he did not ensure a patient with special medical needs was kept separate from the general county jail population.”

Additional details were not made public.

Two years ago, Costin was accused of ignoring Rice as she lay in the Denver Jail dying, accusing her of being “dramatic” and even kicking her in the foot and telling her to go sleep it off, according to one affidavit.

Costin told The Denver Post that he thinks the real reason he was fired was because the hospital was looking for an excuse to get rid of him.

“There’s been blame for virtually everyone around, but I seem to be the one at the center of the storm,” Costin said.

And of the Rice case: “The Sheriff’s Department was pointing the finger at me to protect itself,” Costin said. “And the emergency room was pointing its finger at me. I feel like I’m caught in the middle.”

Last month, the City of Denver agreed to pay a record $3 million to settle the two-year old case in which Rice, 24, suffered a lacerated liver and spleen and bled to death in the city jail. She had been taken to the jail after she had crashed her car and was arrested for DUI.

To get a sense of what happened to Rice, the following are some passages from the affidavit of Sheriff’s Deputy Jessica Jaquez, who was a friend of Rice’s mother and happened to be on shift at the jail when the young woman was brought in — detailing how Rice was treated by Costin:

“I escorted Emily to the telephone at the East Control Center so that she could telephone her mother. Emily did not appear well and was having much difficulty standing while she was on the telephone. She told me that she thought she was going to fall, so I gave Emily a milk crate to sit on while she made the call. I overheard Emily tell her mother that she had ‘wrecked the car’ and then I heard her say ‘OK, mom, I love you…’

“…At approximately 3:00 p.m., I escorted Emily to the nurse’s station. Deputy Minter was at the nurses’ station already. Either Deputy Minter or I handed Nurse Kelly Costin Emily’s envelope containing her medical records. I told Emily to get up on the gurney so that Nurse Costin could examine her and evaluate her symptoms. Emily told me that she was not physically able to get up on the gurney and that she was feeling very badly. All Emily was able to do was to rest her head in her arms on the gurney. All of this occurred in the presence of Nurse Costin.

“Even though I do not have any formal medical training, it was obvious to me that Emily was not well and needed medical care…

“Nurse Costin did nothing to evaluate Emily’s medical condition. Without asking Emily a single question, including without asking her about any symptoms she was experiencing, the car accident she had been in, or anything about her treatment at Denver Health Medical Center or what the doctors and nurses at Denver Health had told her, Nurse Costin stated, ‘She’s drunk. Let her go sleep it off.’ Nurse Costin did not take Emily’s vital signs. Nurse Costin did not take Emily’s blood pressure.

Nurse Costin did not take Emily’s pulse. Nurse Costin did not even look at or speak to Emily. I observed that Nurse Costin was deliberately indifferent to Emily’s obvious serious medical needs…

“Deputy Minter … attempted to take Emily’s mug shot, but before she was able to do so Emily slid down the wall and slumped over onto her side, and her eyes rolled into the back of her head. Even as a layperson, it was obvious to me that something was seriously wrong with Emily and that she needed medical care. I went over to Emily to assist her but Deputy Minter reminded me that I was not to lift her up, as I was pregnant.

“I then went back to the nurse’s station and got Nurse Costin. I told him that the girl I had just brought in to him (Emily Rice) had just fallen at the booking station and he needed to come evaluate her. I was very concerned and communicated this concern to Nurse Costin.

“Nurse Costin replied, “Oh, drama. I knew that was going to happen.” Nurse Costin’s demeanor was that of contempt and as if he was being burdened by having to attend to Emily. Before he even saw her lying on the floor, he acted as though he already thought she was faking her symptoms. His demeanor was beyond unprofessional. It was downright inhumane.

“Nurse Costin and I returned to the booking station where Emily was still lying on the ground. Nurse Costin did not touch Emily except to kick at her foot the way someone might treat a dog. Nurse Costin did not make any effort to pick Emily up off the floor. In a very annoyed tone of voice, Nurse Costin yelled “Hey! Hey! Get up and go sleep this off.” Nurse Costin did not take Emily’s vital signs.

Nurse Costin did not take Emily’s blood pressure. Nurse Costin did not take Emily’s pulse. Nurse Costin did not ask Emily any questions. Nurse Costin did not even touch Emily.”

As part of the settlement, the city agreed to install policy changes at the jail, including sensitivity training and other training, and what is known as “Emily’s Rights” to dictate patient care at the jail.

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