Monday, February 22, 2010

The high cost of medical mistakes

Posted By on Mon, Feb 22, 2010 at 5:31 PM

Memorial Health System's mistakes have cost its insurer more than $1.5 million in only three months, according to a recent legal report prepared for the Colorado Springs City Council.

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In the last quarter of 2009, Memorial settled these cases:

• A case filed by Jon Dietrich, representing the estate of Christine Dietrich, who died July 14, 2008 after experiencing respiratory arrest due to the administration of excessive medication during an elective procedure. Memorial's insurer paid $1.375 million.

• A case filed by Shane Derek Green, who sued in behalf of himself and three children of his wife Jena, who died Feb. 25, 2008, after being treated at two different Memorial facilities for influenza. The city settled for $200,000, but the city didn't disclose whether Memorial or its insurer paid the settlement. Green also sued Emergency Medical Specialists and physician George Hertner.

• A case filed last spring by Leslie McWethy on behalf of herself and her child Jordan Thomas McWethey against Memorial, physician Hertner, physician James Warren and doctor of osteopathic medicine Gregory Collins after her husband was treated and released from Memorial Hospital for chest pain but "shortly thereafter" returned via ambulance where he died of a heart attack. Memorial's insurer paid $225,000, and Memorial paid its $25,000 deductible.

Memorial spokesman Brian Newsome says in an e-mail that last year's fourth quarter was "unusual."

"Legal settlements don’t follow a predictable pattern in terms of resolution timing," he says. "Each of these cases was unique, and the short period of time surrounding the settlements was coincidental."

Newsome says he doesn't know what impact the settlements will have on the city-owned hospital system's insurance rates, noting that rates are established based on multi-year outcomes of litigation.

Lastly, Newsome says Hertner and Collins remain members of Memorial's medical staff and are practicing, while Warren has moved out of state.

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