Sunday, September 5, 2010

On Second Thought, Hospital Did Not Handle Crisis Well

A 7-month-old boy from Indiana died in a Cincinnati Hospital last month, after his body was mistakenly flushed with alcohol instead of the prescribed saline solution.

Tressel Meinardi of Richmond, IN was in Cincinnati Children's Hospital for heart surgery when the alcohol was mistakenly pumped through the little boy's body causing his organs to fail.

Hamilton County, Ohio Coroner O'Dell Owens confirmed the hospital notified his office that someone on the hospital staff had accidentally used alcohol instead of saline solution during heart repair surgery. The infant was born in February with a heart defect.

Owens says the hospital was "upfront" with the family and his office, admitting the "alcohol was the cause of death."

Apparently some days after the death, the Hospital President Michael Fisher circulated a memo to staff saying he could not disclose details, alluding to hospitals' old standby excuse that HIPAA, a federal patient privacy law, prevents them from giving even basic public information.

But the internal staff memo said, "Families have the right to know their child's medical status, treatment and outcomes. In cases where there has been an error, we accept responsibility, admit the error, apologize for it, and explain what happened."

However, the memo doesn't appear to take responsibility, nor does it confirm an error was made nor "explain what happened."

Even his statement of sympathy was somewhat backhanded: "Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of this child, with our caregivers and the entire Cincinnati Children's family. This is a difficult time for many."

When I first read about the death and the hospital's internal communication I thought they were off to a relatively good start in managing this tragedy. But after I went back and read the only public statement I could find from the hospital, I had second thoughts.

The internal memo appears to have been written by a lawyer with fears of a medical malpractice lawsuit hanging over his/her head.

The next challenge for the hospital administration comes when the Coroner reveals what went wrong, or the first lawsuit is filed. These kinds of hospital "accidents" were more common in the past, but a nationally publicized operating room "mistake" a number of years ago prompted most hospitals to change a procedure that had been subject to such accidents and ignored for ages.

Medicines and other solutions were poured out of clearly marked containers into bowls to make it handy for the nurses and doctors to access them during the press of the operation or procedure. It was easy for the bowls to get mixed up and patients to pay with their lives.

If that happened in this case, the staff and hospital malpractice rates will go through the roof. Not to mention the hospital's reputation plunging into to the toilet.

No comments:

Post a Comment