State investigates deaths at LI hospital

Doctor says due to lack of supervision
February 11, 2008 4:34:50 PM PST
A state investigation is being conducted into the deaths of four patients at a hospital on Long Island. One doctor claims that a lack of supervision may have led to those deaths. The New York State Health Department has launched an investigation into Mercy Medical Center. Officially, there have been four patient deaths. But a whistle blowing doctor at the hospital claims five patients have died because of botched procedures.

Long Island reporter Lauren DeFranco has the story.

Doctors rarely go public about internal problems in the workplace, but one doctor is blowing the whistle and his message is loud and clear. He says this is all about saving lives.

"There are certain hospitals I refuse to go to," one Long Island man said. "Because I've known of people who went there and never came out."

The investigation into Mercy Medical Center makes people who are already wary of hospitals even more so.

Case in point, last spring, a woman died after surgical complications from a double mastectomy. State officials confirm there was a mix-up in the hospital's lab, and the woman didn't even have cancer.

"I think that's even more horrifying, hearing this and just not knowing who to go to," one resident said. "You can't trust doctors? That's not good."

"That mix-up was a simple procedure," Dr. Anthony Colantonio said. "The simple thing of placing a label on a specimen container. That sort of mistake should not happen."

Dr. Colantonio says he decided to speak out publicly after a series of deaths. It started in May of 2007 with a young woman who died after surgery. In July, a patient died from an infection due to a catheter. Another woman died after her neck was punctured, and a 19-year-old patient died from a punctured lung.

Just recently, a patient had a pacemaker improperly inserted.

Dr. Colantonio attributes at least some of those instances to a physician's assistant who wasn't properly supervised.

"If it was my family member, I would feel as if those patients were assaulted. And I would feel that the three other patients were killed.

The medical sector released a statement saying, "internal reviews of all the cases cited by Dr. Colantonio have found no instance in which the death of the patient was caused by the actions of a physician's assistant."

A hospital official says this doctor is complaining because he was about to be terminated for disruptive behavior. The State Department of Health is investigating what went wrong.