Lisa Zenzen Baker, 1961-2003


Monday, June 30, 2014

Testimony reveals cover-up

Court transcripts show nurses
failed to report patient’s injury

Family were not told for three weeks
 that he had suffered a serious burn 
from a cold pack filled with hot water,
 itself a violation of hospital procedure

By David Baker
Posted June 30, 2014
1,242 words

Two nurses at Albany Memorial Hospital admitted under oath that they waited more than a week to file incident reports that are required within 24 hours, and almost three weeks to tell the family of a patient that he had received a serious burn from an cold pack that, in violation of a hospital protocol, had been filled with hot water and placed under him while he was heavily medicated.

The testimony is recorded in transcripts of depositions taken in a lawsuit brought by Leonard and Rita Guyette of Troy.  The claim was filed in January 2007.  In December of that year an amended claim was filed, adding a demand for putitive damages.

The case is listed on the court system’s web site as being “settled” on April 24, 2008 – four days before a trial was scheduled to begin. There is no indication in public records of how much was paid to settle the claim.

One of the nurses was Donna M. Karpinski. She was questioned by Thomas Conway of Conway & Kirby, a law firm in Latham NY that was representing the Guyettes. The lawsuit alleged that staff at first told Guyette’s family that he had a bedsore, not a serious burn.

Q.  Did you talk to the family at all?
A.  No.
Q.  Did you call the family?
A   No, I did not.
Q.  Did you advise the family that there had been an incident in connection with their relative?
A.  No, I did not.
Q.  Why not?
A.  I didn’t think it was going to became what it became.
Q.  Did there come a point in time where it did become something?
A.  Yeah.
Q.  When was that, ma’am?
A.  I don’t know.  Because I did not have him as a patient too often after the incident.
Q.  Now, as I understand it, you never reported it to you supervisor; is that correct?
A. Probably not.
Q.  And did anyone discuss that with you?
A.  My supervisor, yes.
Q.  And who would that have been/
A.  Marianne Ruberto
Q.  Now, when you say you didn’t think it was going to amount to much so you didn’t report it to you supervisor, tell me, what do you mean by that?
A.  Well, I just didn’t think it was going to turn into what it turned into
Q.  You knew he had been burned, right?
A.  Yes.
Q.  Did you know what the procedure was with regard to reporting to your supervisor a burn incident?
A.  You know, this is the first incident I ever had working so – and I –
Q.  Is your answer no, ma’am?
A.  An incident to me is was when somebody fell out of bed.  That was an incident.
Q.  And if somebody fell out of bed, would you have reported it to your supervisor?
A.  Uh-huh.
Q.  But if a patient gets burned, you didn’t know you were required to report it to your supervisor?
A.  I did not.

Later in the deposition this exchanged occurred.

Q.  One of the (hospital’s) procedures is that you never apply heat to a patient without a doctor’s order. You knew that had been violated, right?
A.  Right.
Q.  Another procedure was that you never use the cold pack to apply hot water or heat to a patient; is that correct?
A.  Yes.
Q.  Any other procedures that you recall that were violated?
A.  I don’t recall that it’s a procedure, but I know I probably should have notified the supervisor and the family.
Q.  And you did neither, right?
A.  Right.

Also deposed was Marianne Ruberto, a registered nurse and a nurse manager.

Q.  What is the procedure when an event such as a burn occurs?  What is the procedure that the staff is supposed to follow as far as reporting it?
A.  They’re supposed to fill out an incident sheet.
Q.  Are they supposed to fill it out immediately when it happens?
A.  Yes.  They have a 24-hour period.
Q.  They’re certainly not supposed to wait as much as ten or 11 days; is that correct?
A.  Correct.
Q.  And in fact, 24 hours is the rule?
A.  They are supposed to do it immediately, but the deadline to have it completed and made out is 24 hours.
Q.  And in this instance that wasn’t done, is that correct?
A.  Correct.
Q.  Do you know why it wasn’t done?
A.  I can’t answer for the nurse.

A few minutes later there is this exchange:

Q.  Did you know that your staff was telling the family that he had a bedsore?
A.  Correct.
Q.  And  did you talk to your staff about that?
A.  When I knew.
Q. And can you tell me who in your staff was telling the family of this patient that he had a bedsore as opposed to a burn?
A.  Not without looking at records of who took care of the patient and then questioning them about what they said.
Q.  Well, we have records of the care of the patient, if you want to take a minute and look at them to jog your memory.  But you became aware that they were, in fact, misinforming the family, correct?
A. Correct.
Q.  And the people that misinformed the family and told the family that he had a bedsore as opposed to a having been burned, were they disciplined?
A.  No, not that I recall.

Also deposed and questioned by an attorney for the hospital was Linda Gutta, a daughter of Leonard Guyette. The attorney would want to know what Gutta would say at trial.  He asked Gutta about two telephone numbers written on a document that had been examined.

 Gutta:  That’s the number for Westchester burn unit,  Dr. Buckley. I couldn’t remember her name.  There is it. That’s who I called.
Q.  Your also have a number there for Mr. Dasher?
A.  Yes.
Q.  Did you ever speak to Mr. Dasher?
A.  Yes, I did.
Q.  On how many occasions?
A.  I believe twice.
Q.  Do you know who Mr. Dasher is?
A.  Yes.
Q.  Who is he?
A.  Well, he’s the head of that Northeast Group that owns Memorial Hospital.
Q.  When was the first of the occasions  you spoke  with him?
A.  I’m not sure, but it was after my father was burned.
Q.  What was the sum and substance of this conversation?
A.  I called to tell him what happened to my father.
Q. He took your phone call?
A.  Yeah.
Q.  Did he say anything to you?
A. He told me he would look into it and have it taken care of and get back to me.
Q. What specifically did you tell Mr. Dasher at that time?
A.  I told him that we had just found out that my father was burned and they kept it from us for 21 days and we didn’t have the opportunity to send him to the burn unit and I wanted something done.  I wanted answers and people were hiding from us, just not helping us.

Leonard Guyette died in January 2013, 18 months after he was found on the floor by his bed at St. Mary’s Hospital in Troy, where he was recovering from hip surgery.  A story posted here on June 13 said his widow has filed a lawsuit alleging that the hospital, Seton Health Systems and St. Peter’s Health Partners are liable for injuries that led to his death.
Comment:  A costly silence