Friday, June 22, 2007

Soroka ER doctors found negligent in two medical malpractice cases

Two recent rulings by the Be'er Sheva Magistrates Court reveal medical malpractice at Soroka Medical Center's emergency room.

In one case, an emergency room doctor told a patient with a transplanted kidney to take a medication that severely damaged the kidney, although the patient himself warned the doctor against giving him the drug and begged him to consult a specialist.

In the second case, a Soroka emergency room physician who was treating a woman for facial injuries left pieces of the patient's teeth embedded in her tongue, which were discovered only months later.
Judge Tahar Shahaf handed down the verdicts in a civil suit brought by the patients against the Clalit Health Maintenance Organization, which operates Soroka. The judge criticized the doctors harshly and last week awarded NIS 100,000 in damages to the kidney patient, including damages for pain and suffering, emotional distress and fear of losing the kidney. Two weeks ago, the judge set damages for the woman with the injured face at NIS 80,000.
The 47-year-old transplant patient, from southern Israel, received a kidney from his sister about a decade ago. In September 2001, he went to the Soroka emergency room complaining of back pain. He informed Dr. Yefim Shot, who examined him, that he had a transplanted kidney.

Shot recommended that he take the anti-inflammatory drug Vioxx. The patient told the doctor that he had been instructed not to take medication of this type. According to his lawyer, Dr. Shai Feuerberg, the doctor responded "impatiently and even rudely" and "was angry at the patient," who asked him to consult a kidney specialist. In fact, after taking the medication, the patient suffered muscle and joint pain, fever, weakness and chills, and considerable damage to the kidney was diagnosed.

He was hospitalized in December 2001 and was told that he would have to go back on dialysis and prepare for another kidney transplant. Eventually, however, the transplanted kidney began to function again.

The judge said the doctor had violated "all the proper rules" and standards expected of an emergency room. She rejected Shot's argument that he only suggested that the patient take the medication and advised him to consult his family doctor first.

Soroka responded that "the hospital is studying the verdict and considering its steps," but noted that the court determined that there was no damage to the kidney.
The woman who sustained injuries to her face had fallen down the stairs in her home in Rahat, near Be'er Sheva. She was treated in the emergency room by Dr. Ella Even-Tov, who at the time was in her first year of residency in ear, nose and throat medicine. The patient was diagnosed with a cut to the tongue and was prescribed mouth rinses and painkillers. However, she continued to suffer pain and complained of a strange feeling in her tongue. A few months later, it was discovered that two tooth fragments, which had not been discovered during her initial treatment, were embedded in her tongue. The woman said that she suffered neurological damage to her tongue.

The court determined that the treatment the woman received in the emergency room was "negligent and insufficient." Even-Tov, she noted, "did not see fit to carry out primary, urgent and necessary tests," such as an x-ray, which would have caught the problem in time; nor did she refer the patient to the hospital's mouth and jaw clinic.
Even-Tov told the court that she did not refer the patient to the clinic because if she did so with every patient who suffered cuts to the tongue, the clinic would be overloaded. She also said that if foreign bodies like teeth are not identified by tests in the emergency room, "a lot of energy and public money should not be wasted" in locating them, "because they can't cause many problems"

In her ruling, the judge said that Even-Tov's statements were "unacceptable and insufferable" and that "in retrospect, at the forefront of the doctor's mind was not the good of the patient, but rather that of the system employing her." The judge also said that the Clalit HMO physician in Rahat, Dr. Nasri Yusef, had been negligent in not refering the patient to a specialist earlier.
Soroka said that it intended to appeal the ruling, since according to the information in its possession, the damage to the patient was entirely caused by the fall and not by the medical treatment she received.

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