Hospital gets state slap on the wrist
for second diabetic patient’s death
By David Baker
Posted Sunday, June 6, 2010
The state Health Department cited Samaritan Hospital in the death of diabetic patient R. Alec MacKenzie, who died in the hospital in July 2004, but the hospital only had to respond to a “statement of deficiencies.” It was assessed no fine, and last month the department, in response to a Freedom of Information Law request, stated that it has no record of any investigation or disciplinary action in MacKenzie’s death.
But a letter from the Troy office of the Department to the hospital dated November 8, 2004 – a copy of which has been obtained from MacKenzie’s family – says that that hospital must prepare and submit a ‘Plan of Correction, which will “…include a requirement that hospital admitting physician consider the physician orders written for patients before hospitalization.”
There is no indication that any other response other than to undertake to do what would seem to be a standard procedure was required as a result of the death, and there is no record of any fine or other penalty.
According to legal papers, MacKenzie, who was 81 and had insulin-dependent diabetes, died after nurses at Samaritan failed to properly monitor his blood glucose levels. The negligence alleged in his care is almost identical to that which, according to the hospital’s own records, had preceded Lisa Baker’s death just six months earlier.
Lisa had been a patient on the hospital’s fourth-floor Progressive Care Unit when she was found at 2 a.m. with no pulse or respiration and a blood glucose level of just 2 mg/dL. She lapsed into a coma and died three weeks later.
In 2007, the hospital settled a lawsuit brought by relatives of Alex MacKenzie for $125,000.
In Lisa’s case, the Health Department declined to cite the hospital, declaring in a three paragraph statement that her care was “appropriate.” A lawsuit was later dismissed after a doctor at Albany Medical Center Hospital stated in a sworn affidavit that nurses who failed to obey a doctor’s written order to follow the hospital’s own printed protocol for treating hypoglycemia had not failed to meet the standard of care.
The Health Department records on the MacKenzie death also include a copy of a letter in which a relative of Alec MacKenzie complains that soon after the death, the hospital sent a letter addressed to Alec Mackenzie asking for his opinion on his care in the hospital. As was reported here at the time, this is exactly what the hospital did just after Lisa died. A letter complaining about this insensitive action received no response.
And in each of the following three years after Lisa died, the hospital’s fund-raising foundation sent a letter addressed to Lisa asking for money. Six years later the letters continue to come even after repeated separate written requests were made asking that Lisa’s name and her address be removed from all its lists.