Lisa Zenzen Baker, 1961-2003


Friday, November 11, 2005

Bruno ducks, too?

Senate leader's response less than was hoped for

Is Senator Joe Bruno going to join the list of state politicians who won't stand up to the healthcare lobby?


Back at the end of 2005 I contacted the Senate majority leader's office, asking that the senator do what the chairmen of both the Assembly and Senate health committees had refused to do: Take a hard independent lookat the state Health Department's extraordinary conclusion - after a 7-month "investigation - that Samaritan Hospital was in no way responsible for the death of a diabetic patient whose blood sugar had dropped to almost zero while in its care.

The hospital's own records show that Lisa's blood was not checked for four hours prior to when she was found not breathing and with a blood-sugar reading of just 2. And that was immediately after an earlier episode of low blood sugar, which had required an intravenous shot of dextrose. But the Health Department nevertheless found the care 'adequate", and suggested that a drug used to treat high blood pressure was responsible for the fatal plunge in blood sugar, a preposterous idea that is not supported by a shred of evidence anywhere.

My first contact with Bruno's office was at the end of last year, with an attorney in his counsels' office named Karen Crummy. During a long conversation in December, Karen said she had read the postings on this page, and agreed that the Health Department's determination in this case was extraordinary and made no sense. She promised to contact the Heath Department and let me know the result.

Months went by. During a couple of follow-up calls I made in February and March Karen said she had been in contact with someone at the Health Department and was waiting for a call back. Then last week - the last week of April - I called again. After a second call this week, my call was returned - but not by Karen.

Now it was Kris Thompson, a former reporter at The Record, and currently a spokesman for Bruno. Thompson - unlike Karen had been- was very guarded, saying that because of the pending litigation, he could not tell me much, only that there would be "a review", which I may or may not learn about at some point.

So will anything actually change? Just the fact that Karen Crummy ducked my call and passed the matter to a spokesman is significant.

It doesn't look good.

This follows the refusal by the chairmen of both the legislative health committees to take action. As reported in postings elsewhere on this page, Republican Senator Kemp Hannon, who is chairman of his chamber's health
committee, ignored my letter for almost a year. Then, after my attempts to get his attention were mentioned by Fred Dicker on his "Live From the State Capitol" show on WROW radio, Hannon told Dicker that I had been rude to a member of his staff and had refused to leave a phone number. (The number was on both my letters to him.) He then dropped the matter and I've never heard any more from him.

Meanwhile, Democratic Assemblyman Richard Gottfried also ignored my January 2005 letter. Six months later he wrote an op-ed piece for the New York Post, in which he said that "thousands of New Yorkers" were dying because the Health Department was too lax in disciplining doctors. Then, after his non-response was also mentioned by Dicker, Gottfried finally wrote to Health Commissioner Antonio Novello. When her office eventually replied with a brief letter repeating its conclusion that that hospital had met the "standard of care"
in its treatment of Lisa, Gottfried said, in effect, "OK, fine," ignoring the fact that if such treatment is OK under the law, then clearly there is something terribly lacking in the law.

Law that, Gottfried, with his seniority and health committee chairmanship, could change.

Bu that would assume that he and all the rest of them were actually acting in the interest of the public, instead for the special interests that have taken over and rotted out the governments at all levels in this country.