Substandard Care at Medical Facility Led to Deaths

Two doctors and a medical assistant have filed a workplace discrimination lawsuit against a Medical Center, claiming that more than one patient has died there as a result of “substandard care” and that they were ignored or embarrassed, and in one case, terminated, for speaking out. The County Executive said several outside and internal inspectors found “absolutely no evidence” that the patients in question died because of negligence. But he acknowledged that the hospital’s cardiology department is “dysfunctional” because of the many “personality conflicts” and “plethora of he-said, she-said arguments.”

Lawsuit filed Friday in U.S. District Court offers a rare glimpse into the mostly private goings-on in the county-run hospital hallways. Seventy-four pages of allegations paint a one-sided picture of death, backbiting and sexism. The suit was brought by a medical administrative assistant in the cardiology department; a cardiologist; and a chief of cardiothoracic surgery. “This was a last resort,” said the attorney “But the plaintiffs felt this was a moral imperative that they come forward. We have to tell the community what is going on here, that people are dying, and the administration will not change.”

Named as defendants are a chief of cardiology; a chief medical officer; a medical director; and a cardiologist. Among other things, the suit alleges retaliation, discrimination, a hostile work environment, invasion of privacy, slander and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
One of the most serious allegations stems from the death of an unnamed patient in February 2009. The doctor said she advised the patient not to get a stress test on his heart because of his fragile health and history of family heart attacks. she said she recommended a “cardiac catheterization” instead. But other cardiologists ignored the patient’s wishes and her advice, the lawsuit alleges, and gave the patient a stress test anyway. The patient suffered cardiac arrest and died.

Both doctors allege that they were retaliated against by being ignored, verbally abused and embarrassed in e-mails, among other things, as a result of filing complaints with the Joint Commission of Accreditation Health Organizational regarding what they felt was “substandard” patient care. This allegation does not surprise the D.A. who was well aware of this complaint, and many others that the three plaintiffs have filed with county, state and federal officials. He said the negligence allegations have been thoroughly investigated internally and by outside experts, and they found “absolutely no evidence of poor or detrimental care.”

The third plaintiff states that in April 2008 he had wanted to perform surgery on a heart patient sooner rather than later, but “administrators denied him that possibility,” and the patient died, the suit alleges.He said after he spoke out about this, he was slandered in public and that his contract wasn’t renewed because of it. His last day of work will be in June, his lawyer said. The county executive insisted that none of the “three individuals” have been retaliated against, although he acknowledged that from their point of view, they probably would have liked to see more done on their behalf. Smith said the decision not to retain the Dr. was a cost-cutting move since the number of cardiac surgeries has been declining.

“This lawsuit is the last forum available to them,” he said. “I’m not surprised, I’m disappointed.” As with all lawsuits lawsuits and appearance in court is the last recourse for any litigant and you must make it count. If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of professional negligence or anothers conducts’ ccontact my offices conveniently located in Rockville or Baltimore for a free initial consultation or call me at 1-800-320-0080.