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Family files claim in Pasadena hospital nursing assistant's case

The family of Amelia Mendoza contends she was unfairly denied medical coverage after suffering a stroke in the wake of being attacked by a patient at Huntington Memorial Hospital in April.

October 21, 2009|Rong-Gong Lin II

The family of a 52-year-old Huntington Memorial Hospital nursing assistant who had a stroke a week after she was attacked by a patient has filed a claim in a state workers' compensation court, saying she was unfairly denied medical coverage.

Amelia Mendoza, who has four adult children, had a massive stroke April 20, about 2 1/2 hours after being turned away from Huntington Memorial Hospital's occupational health clinic because it was too busy, her family's lawyers said Tuesday.

It was the second time in seven days that she was turned away, according to attorney Russell Glauber. The Mendoza family's lawyers gave the following narrative at a news conference in front of the hospital Tuesday:

Mendoza had first been seen at the emergency room April 12 after being attacked by a young patient. She was told her blood pressure was high and sent back to work.

On April 14, she was attacked again by the same patient. The patient, a girl, bit, scratched, pushed and struck Mendoza and tore out a clump of her hair. This time, Mendoza went to the hospital's occupational health clinic but was told to return later because it was too busy. She returned on April 20 and was again told to come back at a later date. She suffered the stroke 2 1/2 hours later while eating dinner at a mall with her family.

Mendoza had no history of high blood pressure before the attacks, the lawyers said.

Andrea Stradling, a spokeswoman for Huntington, said Tuesday that "all appropriate protocols were followed"

"The hospital does not believe her current medical condition is related to any work-related injury," said Stradling, who declined to discuss details of the case.

Mendoza, who had worked at the Pasadena hospital for six years, has been on a feeding tube and unable to respond to commands since the stroke, her family's attorneys said.

Her personal medical insurance, Anthem Blue Cross, stopped paying for hospital bills Oct. 1, said Chelsea Glauber, who is representing Mendoza. Glauber said Mendoza's family had to take her home despite her doctor's recommendation that she be transferred to a stroke rehabilitation center.

Peggy Hinz, a spokeswoman for Anthem Blue Cross, released a statement Tuesday saying that ultimate decisions for benefits to Huntington's employees are made by the hospital. The hospital's workers' compensation claims administrator, Tennessee-based Sedgwick Claims Management Services, declined to comment.

Mendoza's husband, Ralph, now cares for her at their San Gabriel Valley home and prepares meals for her to be fed through a feeding tube.

"I want the medical care my wife deserves," Ralph Mendoza said.

Attorneys for Mendoza are planning to meet in a Van Nuys courtroom today to ask a judge for a trial to be heard by the state Workers' Compensation Appeals Board.

Susan Gard, chief of legislation and policy for the California Division of Workers' Compensation, said the state encourages workers and employers to resolve their disagreements quickly. But if either side is unwilling to negotiate, it could take several years before the dispute is resolved.

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ron.lin@latimes.com

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