Articles Posted in Wrongful Death

New York hospitals regularly score on the lower end when it comes to patient safety. According to the CMS, almost 50 hospitals in New York are “one-star facilities” – denoting the lowest possible score by the government agency. In addition to a plethora of poorly-performing hospitals, New York also has several high performing medical facilities. According to U.S. News and World Report, which compiles a list of hospital rankings each year, the system for judging hospitals changed slightly this year with a “new outcome measure” meant to examine how many patients must be readmitted to other hospitals.

According to the national newsmagazine (via LoHud), New York’s top 30 hospitals are:

    1. NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital-Columbia and Cornell in New York

New York regulators finally released a list of hospitals and nursing homes where a deadly and drug-resistant fungus has been found. The disclosure comes after months of haranguing public health officials who had hoped to remain tight-lipped, fearing that naming facilities with the antibiotic-resistant ‘super bug’ could lead to an exodus of patients and nursing home residents. According to the CDC, the fungus – referred to as C. auris – kills one out of every three people it infects. For those with weak immune systems, such as nursing home residents, the number is even higher. Because the fungus appears to be resistant to antibiotics, the CDC is warning that C. auris poses a “global health threat.” 

In general, antibiotic-resistant strains a growing health problem. Public health experts say these so-called ‘superbugs’ infected more than 2.8 million people last year and caused more than 35,000 deaths, reported by LoHud.com. The tri-state area appears to be ground-zero for the problem in America, with its massive population living in close proximity and its status as an international travel hub and destination. The CDC reports that the majority of C. auris infections are at facilities the New York metropolitan area, stretching from New Jersey to Long Island and up into Westchester. After declining to release the list of facilities with the deadly fungus, the New York Department of Health finally relented last month.

Here’s a list of facilities in Westchester and Rockland County which have reported infections of the ‘superbug’ C. auris:

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The Department of Buildings (DOB) is suing to revoke the license of a contractor allegedly responsible for the death of a construction worker earlier this year in Turtle Bay. According to The New York Daily News, Nelson Salinas was working on scaffolding halfway up a 14-story residential building when a coping stone was knocked loose by rigging used to support the scaffolding. The stone hit Salinas in the head and he was rushed to New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center where he died from the injuries

After a full investigation, the DOB says the fault lies with Wlodzimierz Tomczak and is now attempting to revoke his special rigger license over the incident. According to the DOB, Tomczak “did not take proper precautions” and could not produce “multiple inspection records… related to the scaffold setup.” 

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Every year, hospitals across the United States are graded on their record for patient safety by the federal government and a nonprofit organization, Leapfrog Group. The federal government uses a “star-based” rating system where hospitals receive a grade between one and five stars, with a one-star rating representing a hospital with serious and widespread safety problems. According to LoHud.com, New York had 48 one-star facilities in the state. Six of these unsafe hospitals were in the Hudson Valley.
Leapfrog Group focuses on more “preventable safety issues”, according to the local newspaper. The metrics used in Leapfrog’s calculations focus on the rate of “infections and medical mistakes, like sponges or tools left in bodies” or “complications such as collapsed lungs.” The nonprofit group assigns a letter grade to each major hospital in the country, which range from an “A” to an “F.” The researchers at Leapfrog point to a study by Johns Hopkins University that found 160,000 deaths each year are caused by “hospital-acquired” conditions – such as infections. Of the 30 hospitals receiving a “D” or “F” grade in New York, two are located in the Hudson Valley. According to Leapfrog, only 12 percent of hospitals nationwide receive a letter grade below “C”.

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According to The New York Times, long-term care hospitals continue to provide poor care to elderly Americans. Long-term care hospitals, also called long term acute care hospitals, provide care typically after a person is being discharged from intensive care and is too sick to return to their nursing home. Close to 400 long-term care hospitals exist in the United States, a number that has dipped in the last decade after skyrocketing in the 90s from just 38.

The proliferation of long-term care hospitals during the period is now largely regarded as unnecessary and many elder care advocates say they harmed individuals while enriching their owners. Because patients at these hospitals are so sick, the hospital receives hefty sums performing multiple procedures and diagnostics on their patients. In 2017 alone, Medicare – which pays for two-thirds of all long-term care stays – paid out an eye-wateringly high 4.5 billion to these several hundred hospitals.

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An investigation by The New York Times into Dr. William Hussel, currently accused of killing at least 25 of his patients, reveals glaring missteps by hospital administrators and nurses. According to the criminal complaint against the disgraced doctor, Dr. Hussel routinely administered opioid doses between five and 20 times the recommended amount at the intensive care unit he worked at in Ohio. Given the scope of his alleged crimes, the families who trusted the doctor only to find out that he killed their loved one are outraged and demanding answers. Mount Carmel, the hospital where the doctor is accused of killing his patients, has already paid out more than $13 million in legal settlements. 

The investigation by The New York Times shows a hospital with an ineffective administration, insufficient safeguards to prevent prescribing excessive doses, and a hospital staff either too charmed or too intimidated to second-guess the doctors.  According to the article, the “red flags” surrounding Dr. Hussel were apparent and ignored from the start of his tenure at the hospital. As a medical student, he pleaded guilty to creating a pipe bomb, which he originally planned on putting underneath the vehicle of another student who told the police he was stealing car stereos. The hospital said they had no knowledge of the criminal incident – even though it was reported to the medical board and available in the public record. 

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Citi Bike removed its electric bikes from New York City’s streets after a slew of bicyclists reported braking problems. The popular bike sharing service made the announcement after The New York Daily News reported a “stronger than expected braking force on the front wheel” resulted in launching the bicyclists over their handlebars. The tabloid magazine said Lyft, the owner of Citi Bike, confirmed that six people sought medical treatment from injuries caused by faulty electric bicyclists. According to Bicycling.com, at least one rider broke his hip and dozens of other electric bike riders reported “close calls, scrapes, and other minor injuries.”

Electric bicycles provide an extra “boost” when a bicyclist pedals and can reach up to 18 miles-per-hour, according to Citi Bike. Consequently, a faulty braking mechanism possesses the potential to cause serious harm to the bicyclist. Commenting on the removal of electric bicycles in New York (and two other cities where Lyft operates bike-sharing programs), spokesperson Julie Wood said, “After a small number of reports and out of an abundance of caution, we are proactively pausing our electric bikes from service. Safety always comes first.”

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Last month, an Ohio doctor was charged with killing at least 25 of his patients administering lethal levels of the powerful opioid fentanyl. After four years of intentionally drugging his patients, murderous doctor’s killing spree finally ended late last year when a pharmacist finally alert hospital authorities. After an internal inquiry, the hospital deemed the deaths of 35 Dr. William Husel’s patient’s “suspicious.” Now, patients told that their loved ones died of natural causes are furious at the doctor and the hospital for allowing the doctor’s murder spree to continue for so long.

According to The New York Times, Dr. Husel began prescribing lethal amounts of fentanyl to patients at least four years ago. Typically, the doctor would prescribe these deadly doses to patients unlikely to survive anyway. As an acute care doctor who worked the overnight shift, prosecutors say he frequently worked with “new nurses” who may have lacked the experience or bravery to challenge the doctor’s prescribing habits. According to interviews with hospital authorities, the pharmacists also proved complicit in the overdoses by overriding hospital protocols which specifically warned about the likelihood of death caused by a massive fentanyl dose. Amazingly, prosecutors say they will not charge any other hospital staffers in the deaths although some have lost their jobs and nursing licenses.

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Citing increased patient care, nurses at New York’s three biggest hospital systems are demanding a sharp increase in nursing staff. The group of nurses – 10,000 strong, according to The New York Times – say they are unable to fulfill their responsibilities and provide optimal care to each patient because there are not enough nurses on staff at Mount Sinai, New York-Presbyterian and Montefiore. The union representing the nurses in their negotiations with the hospitals, the New York State Nurses Association, say they are prepared to strike if their demands are not satisfied.

Speaking to The New York Times, Shanna Murphy, a neonatal nurse, said: “I’m often put in a situation where I’m having to choose between patients and not able to fully support my families.” This leads to what Murphy described as “drive-by nursing” where she does not have time to “actually sit with our patients and spend time with our patients and families.” Other nurses agree and cite a 2002 study directly linking patient care to the number of nurses on staff. Published by the Journal of American Medical Association, the research paper found that for every additional nurse the risk of patient fatality reduced by 7 percent.

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Once named one of ‘America’s Most Beautiful Physicians’, a New York doctor is now being hauled into court by former patients who say they lost his medical records and over-prescribed powerful pain medications, among several other allegations. Reported by NBC New York, cardiovascular surgeon David Gruener has recently come under scrutiny by government regulators and patients who describe less-than-competent experiences with the media-darling doctor. Despite allegations of overprescribing opioid medications, the doctor’s record is currently unblemished. The lawsuits against the doctor will likely change his spotless record soon, though.

The allegations against the doctor began surfacing when one of his former patients blamed him for an opioid addiction that became a $7,000-per-day habit. According to the patient, Dr. Gruener prescribed hundreds of Demerol shots and other opioids during 2011 and 2012. The surgeon prescribed all of this medication despite “clear signs of addiction” in, what the patient is alleging, a “clearly fraudulent scheme” to keep him addicted and the income flowing freely to his doctor. In the course of litigating his lawsuit against the doctor, the patient sought his own personal medical records. Unfortunately, the doctor could not produce these medical records, along with those of any other patients before 2012.

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