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Settlement: Radiologists Can’t Admit Patients

December 6, 2012
Written by: , Filed in: Interventional Radiology, Neuroradiology
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In connection with a lawsuit settlement, MedStar Washington Hospital Center (WHS) in Washington, DC, has reaffirmed procedures that, among other things, ban radiologists from admitting patients to the hospital.

The settlement came in a tragic case involving a woman who suffered severe brain damage after an interventional radiology procedure. A lawyer for the woman and her family questioned whether the hospital had implemented the terms of the 2007 settlement. He trumpeted the hospital’s reaffirmation in a news release earlier this week.

In the release, the lawyer, Washington-based medical malpractice specialist Patrick Malone, said:

This is good news for patients in the District of Columbia who undergo intricate and dangerous brain interventional procedures performed by radiologists. These radiologists aren’t qualified to direct the care of patients after the procedure when something goes wrong. So it’s important to have a clear understanding up front about who is going to be the treating doctor after the procedure.

Sigh.

According to Malone’s news release, a posting on Malone’s Web site, and a letter from Janis Orlowski, MD, the WHS chief operating officer and chief medical officer, here’s what happened:

In June 2003, Lyn Gross, then 57, was treated at WHS for an aneurysm at the base of her brain. An interventional radiologist imaged the aneurysm, then persuaded the family (according to Malone) to allow him to install a stent without first consulting with a neurosurgeon. The stent failed, and the radiologist blocked off the artery.

Gross then lay in the intensive care unit for several hours, suffering strokes affecting both sides of her body. The radiologist, according to Malone, had listed a neurosurgeon as the attending physician. But the neurosurgeon didn’t know that. Neither the neurosurgeon nor any other doctor monitored Gross after the procedure, so the strokes went undetected.

Malone, on behalf of Gross and her husband, Paul, sued the hospital and the radiologist. A 2007 settlement “ensures Mrs. Gross will have skilled lifelong care for her brain damage,” Malone’s Web site says. She lives with her husband in Fairfax County, Virginia.

As part of the settlement, the hospital agreed, according to Malone’s news release, “that interventional radiologists who do procedures on patients would not have authority to list another doctor as the ‘attending physician,’ unless that doctor knew about the patient in advance and consented to be the patient’s doctor.”

Malone filed a new lawsuit this year saying the hospital had never confirmed that policy and asking the court to force its implementation. Dr. Orlowski’s letter in response apparently satisfied Malone.

Dr. Orlowski confirmed that the policy was implemented in 2007 and remains in force. It provides that members of the radiology department are no longer credentialed to admit patients to the hospital. In addition, the letter says:

All interventional procedures now require that communication take place between the interventional radiologist and the neurosurgery service so that neurosurgery is not only notified of the patient’s existence in the hospital, but also is required to assume the admitting responsibility for such patients.

Related seminar: Interventional Radiology Review

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