Family says power outage at Sinai-Grace played role in woman's death

Posted at 6:49 PM, Jan 08, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-08 19:04:42-05

DETROIT (WXYZ) — In late November, 87-year-old Mrs. Anna Belle Smith was having chest pains severe enough for her loved ones to call an ambulance to take her to the ER.

Henry Ford is her hospital of choice, but she was taken to Sinai Grace by EMS.

Her daughter, 52-year-old Mary Lisa Brown tells Action News her mother was having a heart attack. Although, when the EMS arrived at Sinai Grace Hospital, it was dark.

Brown was startled and confused. Then she says there was one unsettling situation after another.

“(The hospital's) computer went down," Brown said. "The walkie talkie things they were talking on is not working properly. The hallways are dark. The lab is dark. There is no power."

They were also told the elevators were down, too.

The Michigan Department of Regulations (LARA) is investigating.

Attorney Jules Olsman is representing the Smith family. He was able to obtain documents from medical staff.

“This is the note from Sinai Grace, that because of power outages it was determined that the CATH lab was not functioning, (so) the patient needs transfer" Olsman said. "What we have here is a failure to communicate. We have a complete breakdown of communication between the hospital and the emergency medical technicians telling them, do not bring a patient who is having a heart attack to the hospital because we don't have power. Someone died because somebody failed to communicate. So, this isn't a case of everyone using their best efforts to try to help Mrs. Smith. This is a case of not even getting to first base in terms of basic communication."

Smith was the matriarch of her family. She raised raised seven children, 21 grandchildren, and 30 great-grandchildren. She was a ministry and was very active in her community.

Mrs. Smith was eventually transferred to Henry Ford Hospital. Time had gone by, and her family believes it was too late. The life saving procedure she needed could not be performed at Sinai Grace because of the power outage.

“I miss my mom," Brown said. "It was Thanksgiving Day that she actually passed on. My last memory of her, she was in a lot of pain. She suffered."

The last two words Smith said to her daughter were to be strong. Brown did not know what it meant, until now.

The Detroit Medical Center (DMC) released this statement:

"Our hearts are with the Smith family during this difficult time, and we have reached out to them after their loved one was transferred, from our hospital during the DTE power outage. Power outages affect community resources, including the need to transfer patients who seek treatment at the hospital, to facilities, where appropriate levels of care may be offered during a power outage. The hospital worked with DTE to restore power during the outage, and we are supportive of any efforts DTE makes to power grid infrastructure, improvements for the future.

DTE Energy also released a statement on Smith's death saying,

“We were saddened to learn of this tragic event. We extend our thoughts and prayers to the family. The safety of our customers is always DTE’s No. 1 concern. During power outages, restoring energy to hospitals is our top priority. In fact, our engineers and field crews worked closely with Sinai Grace Hospital during the outage in November to provide additional power to supplement, the hospital’s onsite, backup generation. Once repairs to the energy, grid were complete, we timed the switchover from backup generation, to the grid based on the hospital’s schedule to ensure patient safety.”