Lisa Zenzen Baker, 1961-2003


Sunday, May 15, 2011


Ignoring instructions appears to be
a routine event at Northeast Health

By David Baker
Posted Sunday May 15, 2011

Once again, it is alleged that staff or agents at Northeast Health failed to follow the organization’s own care instructions. And, once again, a patient is dead.

This time, it isn’t just an allegation in a lawsuit. This time, the state Health Department and an outside review organization have concluded that a nurse and an anesthesiologist each failed to flush a blood thinner out of an IV catheter before using it to administer another medication, as is required by the hospital's protocol.

And according to documents obtained from the Department under the state’s Freedom of Information Law, both the nurse and the anesthesiologist admitted to investigators that they failed to flush the IV.

As a result, the Department says, in less than two hours the patient received two separate large doses of the blood thinner heparin, causing him to lose blood and die a few hours later from the resulting cardiac arrest.

In addition, a medication that might have reversed the effect of the blood-thinning agent was given too little and too late.

But despite that finding, the hospital and the anesthesiologist are both fighting a lawsuit brought by the patient’s widow.

The widow is 87 years old. If ever there was a case when an immediate admission of liability and an offer of a settlement was appropriate, this is it.

But that’s not how Northeast Health operates. Rather, its policy for the past 12 years has been to use its lawyers to fight every claim, while pouring hundreds of thousands of advertising dollars into the coffers of the area’s newspapers, which – just coincidentally, of course – have conveniently ignored dozens of lawsuits alleging that Northeast Health is responsible for the deaths of several patients, and of causing or failing to prevent serious injury to others.

Now the management of Northeast Health is about to get control of two more hospitals, one of which has also generated a long list of unreported lawsuits. But those lawsuits and all new ones will no longer be kept out of public view by a compliant media. Now they will be easily accessible to anyone with a computer and an Internet connection.


The Health Department’s actions in the Joseph Bartoski case are in sharp contrast to its response to a complaint over the care given to Lisa Baker in 2003.

Longtime readers of the Answers For Lisa blog may recall that although Samaritan Hospital’s own records showed that nursing staff had failed to follow the hospital’s printed Hypoglycemia Protocol, and in doing so had ignored a doctor’s written order to apply the protocol, the Department and an IPRO reviewer both insisted that the standard of care had been met

Lisa, an insulin-dependent diabetic, died three weeks after she was found in her hospital bed with a blood-glucose level near zero.

But the IPRO reviewer dismissed all the evidence of negligence in two short paragraphs, stating, without any explanation, that the care given to Lisa “appeared to be appropriate.”

Seven months later, another patient with diabetes, Alec MacKenzie, died in Samaritan in shockingly similar circumstances. This time, the Department found the almost identical care to be lacking and issued a statement of deficiencies – leaving unanswered to this day the question of why it was so intent on brushing Lisa’s case under the rug.