Lisa Zenzen Baker, 1961-2003


Friday, November 11, 2005

Paper 'locks up' its news

Go to jail, get your
medical claim reported

A series of stories in the Times Union over the past week underlines once again how the paper has consistently shielded a group of big advertisers from bad publicity.

As has been reported here, the paper has routinely ignored stories about lawsuits alleging malpractice or negligence filed against medical providers in the Capital Region – providers who also spend a significant amount of money advertising in the paper.

But that doesn’t mean that a person who is injured or killed by the alleged negligence of a medical provider will be ignored.

They just have to be in jail at the time.

The most recent such case to receive lots of attention from the paper is that of Laura Woolsey, who complained of chest pain while in the Schenectady County Jail awaiting sentencing for the killing of her boyfriend.

Woolsey, 39, had been released the day before from Ellis Hospital after an operation to replace a heart valve and sent to the jail. The next day, Woolsey told a jail nurse that she had pains in her chest. But the nurse – who works for an outside contractor – allegedly refused Woolsey’s request to be taken to a hospital.

Instead, the nurse gave her pain medication. Three hours later, jail guards realized something was wrong and called an ambulance.

Woolsey died less than an hour later.

We know all this – days after it happened – because the Times Union has, in less than a week, run four long stories about it - two of them each written by two reporters - as well as two editorials.

How different this response is to that given to a case with remarkable similarities that occurred back in April 2004.

In that case, a 58-year-old woman from Rensselaer who had a personal and a family history of heart problems went to Memorial Hospital in Albany complaining of back pain.

It is known that in women, back pain is often a symptom of a heart attack. But despite this, a doctor in the hospital’s emergency room allegedly gave the woman a hurried examination – but not a normally routine EKG – and sent her home.

An hour later, the same doctor was pronouncing her dead, after she collapsed just after getting home and was rushed back to the hospital in an ambulance.

But not a word about that case has ever appeared in the Times Union – not then and not when a lawsuit was filed against the hospital in May 2004, even though her husband is a well-known former elected official in the city.

The difference, of course, is that jails, health service contractors and, particularly convicted felons don’t spend hundred of thousands of dollars buying advertising – and with, it special protections – from the Times Union.

In April of this year, the paper did run a story about Lisa’s case. But that came only after just about every reporter and editor in the Capital Region had heard about it, and about the TU’s selective silence, from this Web page, and after stories about Lisa’s case had already run in Metroland Magazine, The Daily Gazette and The Record.

And the fact is that not a single further story about lawsuits filed against Capital Region medical providers has appeared since.

This from a newspaper that has seen its coverage of local news reduced to a shadow of what it was 15 years ago, but has just begun an expansion of one of its sections.

The business section.


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