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1/23/2005 New York State Department of Health finds NYU Hospital broke the law and issues "Statement of Deficiencies"

I filed a lawsuit against NYU hospital to force them to take better care of the donors. I also filed a complaint with the New York State Department of health. I thought the NYSDoH would be concerned and interested in how NYU hospital treats their patients. I was wrong. They tried to cover up my complaint.

On January 24, 2001, I wrote to the NY State Department of Health complaining about my treatment at NYU.  I heard nothing.  I called in October, 2001 and was told by a Miss Clayton that there was no record of my complaint. She asked if I had received a complaint number. I said no. She explained that a complaint number would be issued immediately after the letter was received and that a letter would have been sent to my home.  Since I had received no letter from them, I could not confirm that they had received MY letter. 

On April 6, 2002, I sent the same letter, with an updated journal, to the NY State Department of Health. I called on May 10th, 2002.  I was told by a Miss Bostick that there was no record of my complaint.

On June 5, 2002, I wrote to the NY State Department of Health. I sent it CERTIFIED MAIL, RETURN RECEIPT REQUESTED. In a week, I was sent the receipt. A few days later, I received the confirmation letter with my complaint number on it. It was signed by Mary Stevens, Complaint Unit Coordinator.

I called 26 times over the next 2 years-approximately once per month. I spoke with Miss Bostick, Mary Stevens, Miss Clayton and others. Sometimes, I would get the recording "you have reached the New York State Department of Health Hospital Complaints Unit...."  No one calls you back when that happens.  Other times, It would go like this:

Laurie: "Hello-my name is Laurie Post and I am calling to check on a complaint."

NYS DoH: "What is the complaint number?"

Laurie: "xx-xx-xxxx"

NYS DoH: "Hold on please..." (punch on the computer or actually put on hold) Um-Miss Post-that complaint is still open."

After 1 year of "the complaint is still open", I began to ask, "well, do you have any idea WHEN the complaint will be completed?"

One time I was told, "well-I'll look into it and get back to you." Another time I was told, "well, I'll try to get a leader and get you an answer."

Usually, they were polite and usually they called back when they said they would.  However, when they called back, it would be to remind me of the PROCEDURE ("Miss Post, what will happen is that as soon as your investigation is completed, you'll be notified") rather than to give me any information about my particular case.

I was naive. I kept thinking that the investigation was THOROUGH and that it was absorbing so much time because the investigators just kept digging and digging. I was convinced that a transplant doctor or doctors was/were in big trouble. NYU is really going to be surprised, I thought, when they get their comeuppance. What a fool I was.

On March 4, 2004, I sent a letter, CERTIFIED MAIL, to Antonia Novello, the Commissioner at the NYS Department of Health. In it, I itemized the phone calls where I had spoken to someone. I wrote the dates, with whom I spoken and what I was told. I was sent a return letter on March 25, 2004, from a RUTH LESLIE, Bureau of Hospital and Primary Care Services. Miss Leslie stated in her letter to me the following: "I have contacted the Metropolitan Regional Office in New York City and have been advised that your complaint review is nearing completion. When this review is fully complete, you will be advised directly of the results."

She never mentioned the fact that I had been waiting 21 months for a response.

On July 20, 2004, I called the NYS DoH.  I spoke with Miss Bostick. She said that the case was still open. I told her that I had received a letter from Miss Leslie saying that it was nearing completion back in MARCH. Miss Bostick said that she would call me back. She did not.

On July 22, 2004, I called and left a calm but scathing message on the machine demanding a call back about my case.

On July 23, 2004, I called Ruth Leslie. (This is no easy task, by the way. The NYS DoH stationery does NOT have a phone number on it. What does THAT tell us?) I reached Miss Leslie and asked her about my case. She said that she couldn't actually remember it and would I refresh her memory. Once I did, she said that she would contact the New York City office and call me back next week.

On July 29, 2004, I called the NYS DoH again. I got the machine and again, left a polite but FIRM message demanding a return phone call. No one called.

On July 30, 2004, I called Ruth Leslie's office. Delores answered the phone and told me, "Ruth left for the day and is on vacation next week." I left a message with Delores about who I was and what I wanted.

On August 4, my case against NYU settled.

On August 5, Steve Zorbas called me. He said that he was an investigator for the NYS DoH and that he had some questions about my case. I was startled. I called him back on Aug. 6th.

On August 6, 2004, 3 years after my FIRST complaint and 2 years and 2 months after my complaint was CONFIRMED received, I finally spoke with an investigator from the New York State Department of Health. Steve Zorbas was all business but in an efficient way that made me feel like something would get done. I asked him why he was calling TODAY. He said that the file had just appeared on his desk. When I asked him to look at the date, he seemed surprised but not ready to care about why it had taken so long. When I asked him if 2 years was a long time to wait he promptly said yes. We spoke for 40 minutes about my complaints and EXACTLY how things went and EXACTLY where I was when and with whom I had spoken. It had been 4 years, but I knew most every detail as if it had happened yesterday. I waited a long time for someone to ask, "so what went wrong?" After we spoke, he gave me his word that an investigation would begin THAT DAY and that I would have a response in a few weeks. I believed him. He asked me to send him a copy of my hospital journal, copies of my medical records from the other hospitals and copies of any correspondence with NYS DoH.

On August 16, 2004. Steve Zorbas called to ask a few more questions. "Did a doctor examine you the night BEFORE surgery?" (no) "Were you ever contacted by OPMC?" (who?) "Did you KNOW what your blood results were during the week?" (no)  "Did you speak with a doctor EVERY day?" (no)  "Did you see Dr. Teperman on your first visit? (yes)  Your second? (no) Your third? (yes)" etc.  He told me that there were 2 investigators on this case and that the process was well underway.  He said, "I am very troubled by Dr. Teperman's lack of follow-up treatment that led to your sepsis." He also said that he was till trying to speak with all of the doctors.

On August 19, Ruth Leslie called (I guess she was back from her vacation...or maybe she just remembered that she'd made empty promises and was following up on her emptiness...).  She told me, "I'm still trying to get some answers for you."  It was comical.

I said, "YOU TOLD ME THAT THE INVESTIGATION WAS UNDERWAY.  THAT WAS A LIE.  IN BETWEEN THE TIME THAT I SPOKE WITH YOU AND NOW, AN INVESTIGATOR CALLED ME TO BEGIN THE INVESTIGATION. HOW IS IT THAT YOU LIED TO ME?  HOW IS IT THAT EVERY PERSON WITH WHOM I HAVE SPOKEN AT THE NYS DoH HAS TOLD ME THAT THE INVESTIGATION IS NEARING COMPLETION WHEN, IN FACT, IT JUST BEGAN ON AUGUST 6?" She stuttered a little with her "well.." and "I, um..." and finished with, "..these things take time and I am sorry if you were misled."  Well, there it was.  My first of a thousand apologies owed to me from the Health Department of New York.  It was NOT why she called.  It was what she said when she was caught.  Good for me.  She hung up, no doubt thrilled to be off the phone with me.

September 4, 2004-Saturday of Labor Day Weekend. Today I received a letter from the New York State Department of Health. It read as follows:

"Dear Ms. Post-

This letter is to inform you of the results of our investigation of your complaint against the above referenced facility.  We apologize for the delay in communicating our findings.

Professional staff from this office visited the facility, conducted interviews, reviewed the medical records and all additional pertinent documents.

As a result of this investigation, the issues regarding lack of informed consent and failures in recognizing and appropriately treating postoperative complications have been substantiated and are in violation of the State Hospital Code. We have issued a Statement of Deficiencies to that effect (copy enclosed). The facility is required to submit a Plan of Corrections to this office within 15 days.  These findings will be incorporated into our files for this facility, thereby alerting our staff to look for problems of this nature during future visits to the facility.

As indicated in our acknowledgement letter dated 6/17/02, Federal Regulations (HIPAA) restrict the disclosure of protected medical information.

Sincerely,

Patricia Jones RN MN Regional Director of Hospital Program and Primary Care Services/EMS MARO"

I couldn't believe it.  FINALLY.  A response.  I looked for the second page to find the Statement of Deficiencies. THERE WAS NO SECOND PAGE.  Not in my hand, not in the envelope...NOWHERE. There, of course, was no phone number on the correspondence.  Even thought it was a Saturday, I called and left a message on the voice mails of Steve Zorbas AND the New York State Department of Health.  I told them that I'd received a letter, but there was no Statement of Deficiencies.

On Tuesday, September 7, 2004, I called the NYS DoH. I got the phone number of the office that corresponded with the ADDRESS on the letter. That, of course, was the wrong office and I was told to call the NYC office (the same number I'd been calling all along-with Miss Clayton and Miss Bostick.  Patricia Jones was not in and I was transferred to Mary Stevens' voicemail.  I left a message explaining that I had not received my Statement of Deficiencies.  Three hours later, I called again and got the general voicemail of the NYS DoH and left a message.  Next, I called Steve Zorbas.  He told me that it must have been a clerical error (yeah, right!) and that Patsy Jones was out for the day.  He sent me to Mary Stevens who told me that she would send one out right away.

I, of course, waited for a week.

On Monday, September 13, I called and left a message on Mary Stevens' voicemail with my fax number hoping that she could just get it to me that way.

On Tuesday, September 14, I  called and was told that Mary Stevens was not in and that I should call back tomorrow.  I asked if she was in yesterday and was told, "I think so."  I did not get her name.

On Wednesday, September 15, I  called at 10:40 am and a Susan Sanford answered (that is a new name for me!)  She took all of my info, including my fax number, and said that she would get back to me. At 3 pm, I called again and asked for Miss Sanford.  Miss Sanford told me that she gave all of my info to Miss Clayton and tried to transfer me.  I was sent to the general voicemail once again.  Aggravated, I called AGAIN and Miss Sanford got me to Miss Clayton who told me, "I promise to make a serious effort to find a hard copy for you and send it out." A serious effort?? What had been going on up until now????????

On Thursday, September 16, I spoke with Miss Clayton.  She told me, "My secretary found it!  It was with a copy of your whole package and it will go out certified mail TODAY."  I asked her to promise and she did.  What a fool I am.

On Wednesday, September 22, I went to the post office in my town to pick up a certified letter from the NYS DoH.  It had been mailed on Monday, September 20th (so much for the promise...but I had it!) Some of it is blacked out.  It came like that.  It is posted here. 

Since the previous letter clearly stated that the hospital had 15 days to respond, they were ALREADY behind!  The Statement of Deficiencies was released on August 24.  Here it it September 22nd.  NYU has had 29 days!

On Thursday, September 23, I called Steve Zorbas to thank him and to ask how I could get a copy of the Plan Of Corrections.  At first he seemed stunned (a copy of the Plan of Corrections?  NOBODY ever asks for that!!) but then curious to know himself.  I was instructed by Steve to write to Dr. Sam Okorankwo and request a copy of the PoC as per the Freedom Of Information Act.

On Saturday, September 25, 2004, I wrote a letter and sent it registered mail to Dr. Okorankwo.  It read exactly this:

Dear Dr. Okorankwo,

As per the Freedom of Information Act, I respectfully request a copy of the PLAN of CORRECTIONS issued to you from NYU Hospital in response to my complaint.

The Statement of Deficiencies was issued to NYU on August 26, 2004.  The letter sent to me stated that NYU had 15 days to issue a Statement of Corrections.  Fifteen days have passed.

Please respond expediently.  As you can see, it took my complaint over 2 years to be addressed. I will NOT be patient again.  If there is no response, I will file a lawsuit.

Thank you.

Laurie Post

I waited over 2 weeks.

On Monday, October 11, I called Dr. O's office.  I got a message that said, "you have reached xxx-xxx-xxxx, please leave a message for me or Patsy Jones after the beep."  There is, however, no identification of the "me" on the phone.  I left a message for Patricia Jones demanding a copy of my Plan of Corrections.  It is Columbus Day, I realize, and they may be off.

On Tuesday, October 12, Miss Bostick, from the NYS DOH called ME. (yes, I typed that right)  When she asked how to help me, I told her that I was waiting for a copy of my Plan of Corrections.  She told me that I was not entitled to that.  I told her that Steve Zorbas told me that I was.  She put me on hold and came back with a FOIL number (Freedom Of Information Law) and told me to call Dr. Okorankwo's office at a different number.  I called that number and got an office voicemail and left a message.

On Thursday, October 14, Corinne from Dr. Okorankwo's office called to ask for the complaint number so that she could investigate and get an answer.  I gave it to her.

On Tuesday, October 19, I called Dr. Okorankwo's office again.  I spoke with Annie Littles.  She assured me that a copy of the Plan of Corrections would be sent out as soon as possible.

On Monday, October 25, I received the Plan Of Corrections.

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