Lisa Zenzen Baker, 1961-2003


Sunday, May 01, 2011

Pattern repeats


Why do Northeast Health
nurses keep ignoring orders?

By David Baker
Posted May 1, 2011

Once again Northeast Health is accused of causing serious injury.

And once again the lawsuit describes a disturbingly similar picture: Nursing staff who ignore both a doctor’s orders and the hospital’s own printed protocol for handling the patient’s condition.

It happened in the case of Lisa Baker, when, according to Samaritan Hospital’s own records, nurses ignored a doctor’s written order to follow the hospital’s printed protocol for treating hypoglycemia.

Lisa lapsed into a coma after – according to Samaritan own records – her blood glucose level dropped to almost zero.

She died three weeks later, and her death certificate lists ‘profound hypoglycemia’ as one of the causes of her death.

Seven months later, Alec MacKenzie died in Samaritan Hospital. And again, the resulting lawsuit – eventually settled with a payout – alleged that nurses failed to follow a doctor’s instructions to use the hypoglycemia protocol.

Now yet another lawsuit alleges that nurses at Albany Memorial Hospital –also operated by Northeast Health – ignored a doctor’s order to check a patient for a condition that at best can cause serious injury and at worst can lead to death.

This patient survived. But according to legal papers, she has been left with permanent physical incapacity and disfigurements which could have been avoided if the condition had been monitored as ordered.

So why does this keep happening? Why do Northeast’s nurses keep ignoring orders?

It’s a disturbing thought, but it is beginning to look like it is the organization’s policy that rather than employing and appropriately training competent staff, it instead chooses to do everything it can to avoid responsibly for the tragic results of its ongoing callous indifference to patient safety.

First, it has on retainer dozens of lawyers who do everything possible to obstruct and delay every claim of negligence and malpractice. Cases drag on for years, as these lawyers throw every possible obstacle in the path of those who want to know what happened to a person who died or was injured in the hospital’s care.

And second, although allegations in lawsuits usually are set out in publicly available documents, Northeast Health and the operators of other Capital District hospitals have been able to keep these details out of the newspapers. That’s because for the past 12 years the area’s news outlets have willing abandoned journalist integrity and ignored dozens of malpractice lawsuits – while running hundreds of thousand of dollars worth of advertising for those same hospitals.

As far back as 2004, Rex Smith, the editor of the Times Union, was asked in writing for an explanation for what appears to be legal bribery.

There was no response.

The only time there was any sort of reaction from the newspaper was in 2007 when I wrote to Smith informing him that I intended to subpoena him to testify in a deposition in a lawsuit against attorney Steve Coffey.

The response was immediate: Within hours, a lawyer in the Hearst Corporation’s office in New York City called to tell me in no uncertain terms that the newspaper would vigorously fight any attempt to obtain Smith’s testimony.

Think about all that the next time you read a TU story about the newspaper going to court to get information, or an editorial lamenting the buying of influence in politics, or Smith, in his self-serving column, blathering about the media's duty to inform the public without fear or favor.


No comment

No only does the Albany Times Union suppress news about malpractice lawsuits. Now it is suppressing readers’ comments about its censorship, too.

Last week, its medical reporter, Cathleen Crowley, tweeted about a new way to search the newspaper’s archives. A link in the tweet led to a page on Crowley’s blog, which, like most posts, had a comment box below a notice saying that comments will be posted only after they have been have been approved.
So in that box I submitted the following:

I frequently search the Times Union archives - each time I go to a county clerk's office and make a copy of a medical-malpractice lawsuit filed against a TU advertiser. But each time I find that no story appeared in the TU.

That's why I launched, to make easily accessible information that for the past 12 years the Times Union has routinely suppressed.

But my comment never appeared. Not only that, but the next day the entire post had been removed from the blog.


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