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There was nothing about the hospital’s reaction to the MRSA outbreak that was random, kneejerk or left to chance.
Vickie Flaherty, a former St. Michael’s head nurse and the hospital’s current risk manager, had worked hand-in-hand with the medical directors and operations officers to make sure that the hospital’s crisis response team performed well under these kinds of circumstances.
Vickie had worked her way up the career ladder from an entry level position as a nurse’s aide 23 years previously. She had at her disposal one of the leading healthcare insurance brokerage practice teams in the country.
In the last 24 months, Vickie and her team had successfully reduced collateral requirements for workers’ compensation exposures, helped the hospital acquire a local ob/gyn practice with no increase in medical malpractice premium rates and established an onshore captive for the hospitals in-house physicians. It had been a lot of work.
She and her team had bitten off so much work lately that Vickie was starting to get a nagging feeling that in their ambitious approach she and her brokerage team may have overlooked some more fundamental developments.
Vickie’s effectiveness was based in solid education. A financial quarter didn’t go by that she didn’t attend a webinar or attend an in-person training session that gave her opportunities to increase her knowledge.
As she sat in her office on a mid-winter Wednesday, Vickie let her eye roam for the fourth time that day to a framed photo of her son and two daughters playing whiffle ball on the Jersey Shore. Vickie just stared at the photo for a while. Trim and athletic, she had learned a love of the outdoors from a young age and had the good sense to pass that love on to her children.
Vickie was a trained veteran of, the value of transparency and disclosure where hospital staff members meet with the families of injured or deceased patients in an effort to offer condolences, offer an apology, provide an explanation of facts known at that time and answer questions. Additionally, this time would be used to provide the family support and community resources as well as, to establish communication channels designating a contact person and developing a timeline for follow-up communication with the family.
Vickie got butterflies before all of these meetings but had them doubly so today, since her meeting with the family was just five minutes away.
There was nothing to be done though. She had a job to do and she had to lift herself up out of her office chair and go do it.
The Eastons and their attorney were on one side of table when Vickie entered the conference room. Shane Graves, the pediatrics heart surgeon and the hospital’s general counsel were closest to her. There was one chair open and Vickie took it. Vickie was a mother and when she caught Jennifer Easton’s eyes the look she saw there went through her like a knife.
The meeting was just two minutes old when Dr. Graves exploded.
“There is absolutely no reason your boy had to die,” Dr. Graves said, looking squarely at the Easton’s.
“He was making a good recovery, and he was killed by a hospital-acquired infection that this hospital could and should have prevented!” Dr. Graves said, pounding the table with both of his flattened palms.
The St. Michael’s attorney hurriedly tried to get Dr. Graves to settle down, but he was too late. The Easton’s attorney didn’t say anything. For once, he didn’t have to.
(The Scenario continues on page 3)