Lisa Zenzen Baker, 1961-2003


Friday, November 11, 2005

Newspaper whispers story

Times Union downplays
news on hospital deaths

Posted June 26, 2006

The announcement from a patient safety organization last week was amazing: Over the 18 months up to June 14, an estimated 122,638 people who would have died in a hospital had been saved.

The organization is the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. Three years ago, it set a goal of reducing preventable deaths in medical facilities. To do this, it challenged hospitals around the country to adopt at least one of several initiatives designed to prevent avoidable deaths – such as a ‘rapid response’ team that can be called to a bedside at the first indication of a decline in a patient's condition.

The goals was to have 2,000 hospitals involved. In the end, 3,100 of them signed up, including every hospital in the Capital Region.

The IHI says the estimate of 122,000 lives saved was arrived at by having the hospitals report to the institute the number of avoidable deaths that had occurred in the 18 months up to the end of 2004, and then on the number of such deaths that occurred in the next 18 months, following the introduction of at least one of those initiatives.

If the IHI’s estimated is correct – or even close – it means that during the past 18 months, 122,000 people – that’s 233 people a day – left the hospital alive instead of dead.

That is amazing news. And, around the country, many newspapers treated the story accordingly, running long, staff written stories with quotes from hospital managements.

But not the Albany Times Union. This paper, which has ignored all but one of hundreds of medical malpractice lawsuits filed over the past 8 years – while earning hundreds of thousands of dollars for all those hospital ads – barely whispered the IHI story, running only a small part of an Associated Press article in a single column low on an inside page on June 15.

Of course, the IHI numbers also mean that in the first 18 months examined by the campaign, 233 people a day died unnecessarily. And that each of these hospitals had to acknowledge those preventable deaths to the IHI, even as their insurance carriers and lawyers fight any attempt to get the truth.

But the management of the TU, beholden as it is to the medical community, is unable to draw attention to such disturbing facts. So it plays down stories like this in order to keep the hospitals’ advertising revenue flowing in.

The Albany Times Union. American journalism at its finest.

The IHI is on the Web at:

Safety plan would not have helped Lisa

Although Northeast Health – the company that owns Samaritan Hospital – is listed as being a participant in the ‘100,000 Lives’ campaign, its not known if it has implemented one of the campaign’s initiatives, the ‘rapid response’ team that can be called to a patient’s bedside at the first sign of a deterioration in his or her condition.

But even if the team had been in place at Samaritan, it would not have saved Lisa’s life.
That’s because in order for the team to respond, someone has first to notice that a patient’s condition is declining. And, according to Lisa’s hospital chart, no one checked her blood sugar in the four hours prior to when an alarm on a heart-rate monitor sounded and she was found to have stopped breathing and to have a blood-glucose reading of 2. She was ignored, even though her glucose level had dropped below normal earlier that evening, and the Health Department – while declining to cite the hospital – stated that she was "at high risk of spontaneous hypoglycemia."

The chart clearly shows that it was this failure to provide appropriate care that led directly to the devastating organ damage that caused Lisa’s death. That’s why four nurses who were working that evening are named in the second of two lawsuits now pending in state Supreme Court.
Intrestingly, the hospital’s lawyers have so far refused to hand over certain highly relevant documents that should undoubtedly be a part of Lisa’s chart. The attorneys are evidently unaware that I already have some of them; pages that apparently were deliberately removed from records that the hospital certified as being "complete."

Attorney's sloppy work
puts lawsuit in limbo

The legal proceeding to determine what happened to Lisa while she was a patient at Samaritan Hospital has hit a major delay, and not because of the hospital’s tactics of obstruction and delay. This time it is the lawyer who was supposed to be representing Lisa who has abandoned her duty to the person she was supposed to represent.

The case is now on hold as a judge decides on a claim by attorney Cynthia S. LaFave of Delmar for a large piece of any award or settlement. This after Ms. LaFave had:

* Filed a lawsuit without my signature or knowledge, after I had pointed out to her that it contained several errors, including the misspelling throughout the document of the name of the main defendant in the case:

* Failed to respond to at least 10 legal documents from the defendants, going back to September of 2005;

* Failed to compel attorneys for the defendants to comply with a clause in each of approximately 150 authorizations I signed for the release of Lisa’s medical records that requires them to forward to me copies of each record obtained with the release authorization;

* Prepared legal documents that contained numerous errors, including in two cases the name of another person – apparently one of Ms. LaFave’s other clients – where Lisa’s name should have been and;

* Repeatedly and willfully withheld important information about the case from her client, including the fact that one of the defendants, a doctor, had died.

Earlier this year, I informed Ms. LaFave that I wished to remove the case from her. In early April, Ms. LaFave filed an Order to Show Cause against me, demanding not only her costs, but a large share of any award or settlement. I responded by pointing out that in the Order she had made yet another error, by failing to identify – and thus place a hold on – one of the lawsuits now filed in the case. Ms. LaFave then filed an amended Order, correcting her mistake.

In May I filed an affidavit, asking the Court to change the terms of the Order to say that Ms. LaFave must allow me access to my file. I want to see what other mistakes might have been made and concealed from me.

After Ms. LaFave repeated her demand, I filed a further legal response on May 17. A ruling by the judge is now pending.