Lisa Zenzen Baker, 1961-2003


Friday, November 11, 2005

A state assemblyman's hollow puff piece

The following op-ed piece ran recently in The New York Post

Chairman of the Assembly Health Committee

WE want to believe that health authorities are policing the medical profession to make sure that a physician who is repeatedly negligent will be found and removed from practice.

Unfortunately in New York, the Office of Professional Medical Conduct does not have the kind of record of going after dangerous doctors that it should.

I have great confidence and respect for the vast majority of our physicians. But there are also those who should not be allowed to hold our lives in their hands.

We have 77,000 physicians in New York, but last year there were only 320 disciplinary actions against physicians. Yet studies show that thousands of New Yorkers die in hospitals from medical errors, and news stories of patients dying under the care of physicians who've had a long history of malpractice judgments.

Well over a dozen states have physician-discipline figures higher than New York's. It is likely a sign that the Health Department is not doing the aggressive job that it should be doing to protect our lives and health.

There are bills in Albany that would address some of these issues. They would require OPMC to do an investigation if it gets three reports in five years against a physician; set up a consumer assistance unit to guide patients in pursuing a complaint against a physician, and allow them to submit written statements about the case; and help identify problems in physicians' offices by collecting reports from hospitals when a patient shows up for treatment following an office procedure. Another problem with OPMC is that some physicians get too much of its attention, especially physicians whose practices are different from "mainstream" medicine. They can be the target of what amounts to persecution, often because of complaints coming not from their patients but from insurance companies.

Improving OPMC's attitude and energy level has to come from the top — the health commissioner and the governor.

The following response was submitted to the Post on June 20:

To the editor:

I just read the op-ed piece in The Post by state Assemblyman Richard Gottfried about lax discipline of bad doctors. Gottfried, of course, is the chair of the Assembly’s Health Committee. Six months ago, I wrote to him about the Department of Health’s ‘investigation’ of the death of my wife; Lisa, in a upstate hospital. I asked that his committee review the department's stunning conclusion that 'the standard of care was met' in Lisa's case, even though her blood glucose was allowed to fall in just three hours to a fatal level.

I never received so much as an acknowledgement from the assemblyman's office.

Here is a man who, more than most people in the state, could actually do something about the terrible situation he wrote about last week. How about calling a hearing and using examples such as Lisa's case to demand an explanation from the DoH and those who control it?

Instead, he writes a piece for a newspaper that makes him look good but does nothing to actually bring about change.

Is there anyone left in business or government who is not at best a hypocrite, or, at worst, totally corrupt?

David Baker
Waterford, NY