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Making Disclosure A Reality For Healthcare Organizations 

Baby Loses Finger in Hospital - Disclosure Checklist

A few weeks ago I wrote about a  hospital that I believe over-paid on a disclosure case.   Last year I wrote about a hospital that disclosed a tragic error but offered  the family nothing more than an awkward handshake, and  rightly got sued with the case settling shortly thereafter. A newspaper  reporter tried to say the hospital got "burned" by their apology,  but we know apology does not absolve your of your financial obligations to  harmed patients and families.Today, I share a case where I don't know, but I have some  thoughts and ideas to share. Moreover, the story provides a virtual checklist  of issues that healthcare and insurance organizations need to consider when  disclosing. Here's a link for the story as  well as another link.

Long story short, a 3 month-old  baby, Selena Olguin, had part of a finger severed by a nurse trying to remove  an IV. The portion of the pinky finger that was severed could not be  re-attached.

Here's what the family's attorney   has to say: "Pendas (the family   attorney) claims that while attorneys for the hospital were responsive to him   at first, they stopped responding, forcing him to file the lawsuit. So far,  the family hasn't seen a penny. They have filed a lawsuit against the   hospital and nurse, seeking damages of more than $15,000. 'This is something  that should've been a very simple process,' he said, without specifying how  much the family wanted. 'It is difficult to put a dollar amount on this.'   Pendás said Selena could suffer future emotional and physical disability  because of her lost finger.

Here's what the hospital has had   to say: "The hospital said in a  statement the incident was an 'unfortunate accident,' and that they made  contact with the family. 'We deeply regret the harm to the child and want to  express our compassion and concern for her and her family. We reached out  right away to the child's family and their attorney, but have not been able  to reach a mutually agreeable resolution.'"

And more from the hospital's  attorney: "Attorney Richards Ford, who  is representing the hospital, said they have 'looked at this thing very, very  closely,' by investigating the nurse involved, who is still employed. 'We  have tried our best to resolve this,' he said.

Here's what the nurse had to say   immediately after the accident:   '"I'm so sorry,' the nurse told the mother, according to Veronica. 'I  have children, too.'"

And finally here's what the   child's Mom had to say: "Olguin  says she still has nightmares about the incident, and she believes Selena  does too. ‘I saw everything. And it's really hard what I went through. And I  can't imagine what she went through,' she said. Olguin claims Selena wakes up  crying often in the night, and she worries for her child's future in sports  and school without a finger. 'It's really hard that she, she was born so  perfect.'"

Very tragic case, and I don't know  who is being the roadblock to a fair settlement: The PI attorney or the  hospital? This is a type of case where lawsuit shouldn't have to be filed,  but the family has a right to file a lawsuit if they are not being treated   fairly, just as the hospital has a right to go to court and argue a case on  the damages.

From a disclosure checklist   perspective, keep this case in mind when   thinking of compensation. Do you have the people and mechanisms in place to   move quickly (once fault has been determined) and be fair in your offer,  without over paying? Are your attorneys part of this process and supportive,  or not? Do you need to get new attorneys? And have you communicated the  intent of your disclosure program to the trial bar, and worked to build   relationships with these folks before an event happens?

Also, from a checklist  perspective, this might be a case – once the temperature drops – where the  family could be involved in improving the hospital. Be ready for these  possibilities.

Also, from checklist perspective,  I truly worry about the hospital because of the public words they issued:   "unfortunate accident" and "regret." To be frank, these   phrases came off as weasel words, probably dreamed up by lawyers and PR  people trying to limit or minimize damages --- but weasel words often  increase the anger and financial damages that follow. Not only damages from  this case, but also reputational harm in the a parent myself  I was outraged by these word choices. Say it like it is: "This is a  tragic error that has damaged a beautiful child, and we are very sorry for   our mistake that has led to life-long consequences for Selana and her family.   We can only imagine their pain, we truly apologize, and we will do our best  to support them." Make sure your PR people and lawyers don't make a bad  situation worse.

Finally, from a checklist perspective, I was glad to see the  nurse emphathized immediately by saying sorry - but what about other staff?   Did they say sorry too? Do we need empathy training for other staff? At some  point - if possible - it would be valuable for the nurse and the family to   meet. Also, are we providing emotional support for the nurse and others  involved in the mistake? We need to take care of everybody.




Doug Wojcieszak Founder Sorry Works! PO Box 531 Glen Carbon, IL 62034 618-559-8168