Article Misrepresented Deaton's ProblemsThe Sun March 2...

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March 19, 1994

Article Misrepresented Deaton's Problems

The Sun March 2 included a story on the front page of the Maryland section headlined, "Poor Care Precedes 15 Deaths." The story concerned a report about Deaton Specialty Hospital and Home issued by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

The report was critical in a number of areas, as is the purpose of this type of report. We understand we have problems in some areas, as noted in the report, and are working very hard to correct them.

We want to point out that the state has gone on record as saying that the problems noted in the report were not the cause of the patients' deaths.

We also want to emphasize that the report was very specific in stating that there was no evidence of criminal negligence or wrongdoing.

It further noted that all of the patients studied in the report were elderly and seriously ill. This is not unusual. Because of Deaton's expertise in treating seriously ill and elderly patients, the hospital often receives the sickest patients from its referral sources.

We do take offense that the headline and some of the bulleted items in the story that deal with patient care broadly assume and insinuate that the care at Deaton Hospital is poor and that, as a result, patients died.

This is not true. It is also an incorrect assumption that supposed lapses in care allowed patients to worsen and for them to suffer. This is also not true.

* Example: The article states that a 76-year-old woman was given a drug to which she was allergic. The woman later suffered respiratory distress and died. The implication was that she died as a result of an allergic reaction.

The fact is: The patient had been at Deaton for a number of months. She had previously been transferred to another hospital for three days for treatment of pneumonia.

Upon her readmission to Deaton, the family told the physician she had an "allergic" reaction to a certain sedative. The admitting physician at Deaton found that the reaction described was an expected effect from the sedative and was not an allergic reaction.

The woman was very ill and did finally succumb to respiratory failure. She did not die from an allergic reaction.

* Example: The story states that a 74-year-old stroke patient received no diagnosis or treatment for 17 straight days for rectal bleeding. The story says that he was then rushed to an acute care facility, where he died, and that doctors there found a rectal tumor.

The implication is that Deaton did not provide treatment, misdiagnosed a rectal tumor and the patient died.

The fact is: The rectal bleeding was known and closely monitored. The patient was also known to have diabetes, high blood pressure, vascular disease, a recent massive stroke and was unable to breathe on his own.

The testing required to evaluate the bleeding could have been quite risky considering the patient's problems. Cautious monitoring of the problem was not making the patient any more ill than he already was.

The patient was eventually transferred to an acute care hospital because of a sudden change in his vital signs. We now know that he had blood poisoning from his kidneys, which is not unusual in such an ill patient. At the acute care hospital, evaluation showed a bleeding hemorrhoid, not a rectal tumor as was reported.

* Example: The article describes a 72-year-old patient whose bed sore was allowed to worsen for two months. A week before he died, one sore grew so deep that the bone in his heel became visible. The implication is that the patient was ignored, suffered needlessly and died.

The fact is: Deaton takes care of very sick patients who often have a number of serious medical body system problems.

The hospital has a special wound management program to work with patients who are admitted with serious decubitus ulcers and sores that are often quite large and quite deep.

The wound certainly was not allowed to worsen. In fact, there was active treatment to try to repair the wound.

However, as some of the body systems began to shut down and death neared, the patient's skin system also began to fail and would not respond to treatment. The patient was not ignored.

* Example: The article told of an 88-year-old man found dead with cool skin. The story reported that the patient was supposed to be checked every hour, but the last documented check was eight hours earlier. The implication is that the man was not checked for eight hours, so long that he was cold and had possibly died as a result.

The fact is: The man was found dead with cool skin. Cool skin in an 88-year-old patient with serious multiple system problems is not unusual even if the patient is alive.

The implication is the man had not been checked for so long that he was dead and cold.

This was not the case. Deaton uses a procedure that puts a check sheet on patient doors. The sheets from the doors are then reviewed and a single summary entry is made in the patient's chart.

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