We have heard about the story of Lavern Wilkinson. She was the victim of horrific medical malpractice by Kings County Hospital. A first year resident told Wilkinson that her EKG and chest x-ray results were normal. Due to this, she did not know she had a lung nodule in 2010. By late 2012, the nodule had grown into lung cancer and had spread to her spine, liver, and brain. She died on March 7, 2013.
In an investigation conducted by state health officials following the revelation about the medical malpractice committed by doctors of Kings County Hospital, they found that the radiology and emergency departments had several deficiencies that put patient’s lives in jeopardy. Findings included a lack of evidence that the radiology department had a policy in place that ensured that if there were any significant findings on x-rays and other studies that the medical staff who ordered the test was informed. In Wilkinson’s case, there was not any evidence that the existence of the lung nodule was communicated to any emergency department staff. Additionally, there were no policies that ensured that abnormal radiological studies were reported to the doctor who ordered them. Only critical findings were reported.
In the medical field there seems to be a lack of communication between doctors, even if they are both responsible for the same patient. For example, emergency room doctors and primary care physicians rarely contact each other to discuss a patient they are both treating. Unfortunately, as happened in the Wilkinson case between the radiologist and the emergency room doctor, many medical malpractice cases occur due to a lack of communication between doctors.
Since her needless death, the Kings County Hospital’s radiology department is now required to alert emergency room and other doctors of their patients’ tests results should the findings be “abnormal.” Previously, doctors were only alerted if the tests results came back critical or urgent. Additionally, outpatients must now be given their tests results prior to leaving the hospital. If it is not possible to give them their test results, there must be a follow-up phone call made. The state has accepted Kings County Hospital’s plan to correct the problems that caused Wilkinson’s needless death, though the hospital’s compliance would be monitored to ensure compliance.
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