Lisa Zenzen Baker, 1961-2003


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Felons first

To get your med/mal story
published, file it from jail

By David Baker
Posted Tuesday Oct. 15, 2014

Once again, the Hearst-owned Albany Times Union shows that it values convicted felons over everyone else.
Once again, the paper runs a story about a lawsuit filed by a prisoner, while dozens of similar claims filed over the past 15 years by non-prisoners are ignored.
This time it’s Kevin T. Kavanaugh, who is serving a five-year term in state prison for a drug conviction.
According to a story in the TU on Tuesday, Kavanaugh says his lower leg had to be amputated following injuries allegeldly inflicted by police officers during a July 2013 arrest. Officers allegedly twisted his leg, cutting off the blood circulation.
Named as defendants are several police departments and Correctional Medical Care, Inc., a company that provides medical services to several New York jails.
According to the suit, CMC staff ignored Kavanaugh’s repeated complaints that his leg was swollen and that he was unable to walk. The delay in getting treatment, the suit says, caused his condition to worsen, requiring the amputation.
The story also repeats details of another lawsuit against CMC that were published by the TU earlier this year. In that case, inmate Shamir Leflore, who is serving 13 years on a weapons charge, claims that a delay of several weeks in getting him treatment for a knee injury meant that a damaged tendon could not be repaired and had to be replaced with one from a cadaver, leaving him with permanent damage.
If history is a guide, the paper will now run an editorial lambasting the company, and the state for allowing it to provide substandard care.
But Helen Turcotte received no such support when, she, like Kavanaugh, lost part of her leg.
According to a lawsuit, Turcotte underwent surgery in 2006 to replace a knee. But during the procedure, an artery was allegedly damaged, requiring amputation of the lower leg.
The suit named several doctors, Albany Memorial Hospital and Northeast Health, Inc., (now, following a merger, a part of St. Peter’s Health Partners).
But not a word about it appeared in the TU.
It was the same for Joan Clark, who died an hour after a doctor in Albany Memorial Hospital’s emergency room sent her home after a brief examination that ignored her medical and family history and complaints of back pain. That doctor later lost his licence, in part because of his negligent care of Clark.
Again, not a word in the TU. But a claim filed by the family of Laura Woolsey, who died while an inmate at the Schenectady Jail after also complaining of chest pains, got both a story and - yes - an editorial.
Then there was Irene Bamenga, 29, a French citizen with a serious heart condition who had applied for a permanent visa but was detained by U.S. immigration authorities as she tried, with her husband, to cross the U.S. border into Canada to catch a flight to France.  She was here illegally because a temporary visa had expired several years earlier. Although not facing any charges, she was moved to the Albany County Correctional Facility, where her repeated complaints were ignored before she collapsed and died.
Bamenga’s husband filed a lawsuit against Correctional Medical Services, which was contracted by Albany County to provide medical services to the jail.  The lawsuit also named Albany and Allegany counties and Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple.
Once again, the TU ran a story which included information from both a heavily redacted report by Correctional Medical Services - which concluded Bamenga died from natural causes - and the results of an investigation by the immigration service, which found that her death was preventable.
The TU story - which also was followed by a scathing editorial - says the state censored information about medical errors that led to Bamenga’s death.
This from a paper that for years has suppressed information about dozens of lawsuits alleging medical negligence filed against its advertisers.
Then there was the special attention the TU gave to Darius Ashley.
In February 2011, details of a lawsuit in which the 25-year-old Ashley claimed he had been beaten were published in the TU.
Ashley was then in the Albany County jail for raping a 14-year-old girl and the attempted rape of another girl.  He also was a suspect in the murder of middle school student Gretham Perham, whose body was tossed down an embankment in Albany's South End in 2005.
The TU’s story ran just one day after the handwritten complaint was filed. Evidently the paper’s editors couldn’t wait to rush it into print.
For years, the Times Union management has demonstrated its true “news judgment” by ignoring dozen of lawsuits alleging malpractice and wrongful death filed against the area’s medical providers – providers who have spent and continue to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in advertising revenue with the paper.
But with the Ashley story, it was displaying a new bias.
One that gives a convicted child rapist a special priority.