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Lisa Salberg
05-27-2010, 12:36 PM
Some Tests, Long Ignored, Showed Signs of Heart Illness
By ANEMONA HARTOCOLLIS
Published: May 26, 2010
New York City’s public hospital system said on Wednesday that some of the thousands of heart test results that were never sent to doctors at Harlem Hospital Center since 2007 had shown signs of abnormal heart function.
Hospital officials made the admission a day after acknowledging that results of 4,000 of the tests, called echocardiograms, had never been seen by doctors because of a practice of allowing technicians to read them first.
On Tuesday, they said that no harm had been caused by the process because they believed that the technicians were so good at reading the tests. On Wednesday, they said their review undercut that belief.
A team of cardiologists has been working almost constantly since Friday to review those tests. The doctors have looked at 1,650 tests so far, finding signs of heart disease in some of them.
Ana Marengo, a spokeswoman for the hospital system, the Health and Hospitals Corporation, said that despite the abnormal results, a cross-check of medical charts had not shown that anyone did not get needed treatment.
The state health commissioner, Dr. Richard Daines, has ordered a state investigation into how the oversight occurred and whether there were any health hazards as a result.
Harlem Hospital serves largely black and Hispanic, often poor, patients, who tend to be at higher-than-average risk for heart diseases.
Dr. John N. Morley, the medical director of health care management systems for the State Health Department, who is leading the investigation, said on Wednesday that state officials would be reviewing charts and interviewing physicians to determine whether lives had been put at risk.
Asked if the situation at Harlem Hospital was unusual, he said, “Very.” He added, “We want to know what happened that allowed this to develop as long as it did, what’s their process and how will they ensure that this doesn’t happen again.” The clinical director of the hospital’s department of medicine has been fired, and the medical director was demoted.
Ms. Marengo said she could not say exactly how many of the tests reviewed so far had shown signs of heart disease. Echocardiograms are ultrasound pictures that can show how well the heart is squeezing or whether there is a potentially fatal accumulation of fluid around the heart.
Experts said the tests could be urgent and were usually prescribed because a patient was showing symptoms like shortness of breath, swollen legs, fatigue or chest pain.
Having 4,000 tests done and unread is unheard of, and is “unconscionable and unacceptable and malpractice as far as I’m concerned,” Dr. Douglas Zipes, a cardiologist at Indiana University Medical Center, past president of the American College of Cardiology and editor of HeartRhythm, said on Wednesday. “I can’t use more adjectives than that.”
Dr. Zipes said that at his hospital, echocardiograms were read in less than two hours.
“If a postal clerk has not delivered mail for three years, past bills and things like that are not going to affect someone’s life,” he said. “These absolutely affect many people’s lives, and I would bet that there are deaths directly attributable to the failure to read these echocardiograms.”
Ms. Marengo, the Health and Hospitals Corporation spokeswoman, said that at this point, she could not say whether any of the 4,000 patients with unread tests had died.
City hospital officials said technicians had been reading the tests and sending those that looked bad to doctors. But the 4,000 tests the technicians did not believe were abnormal apparently languished in a computer. On Wednesday, the hospital officials said that some of those tests had indeed shown signs of abnormalities.
Dr. Zipes said he did not think technicians were a substitute for doctors.
“We have the technicians do the echos, but then they’re read by the doctors,” he said. “I would not have it any other way.”
Dr. Morley said the most serious problems found in echocardiograms, like severe aorta problems, would call for immediate treatment. The actor John Ritter and Jonathan Larson, who wrote the musical “Rent,” both died of such problems, he said.
But Dr. Morley said many patients were likely to get more than one test, so their problems would be spotted even if some echocardiograms had not been read. He said echocardiograms came back normal about half the time.

THW
05-28-2010, 12:34 AM
Just unbelievable!

Theresa

Susank
05-28-2010, 11:30 PM
It is hard to find words to respond to this story. Shocking beyond belief.

Lisa Salberg
05-31-2010, 03:26 PM
Jim... you are forgiven...LOL... and missed!

Philipk02
11-05-2011, 07:43 PM
Lisa,

That is why I used to hate those hospitals. I used to tell anyone, never take me to BROOKDALE hospital in Brooklyn, or Harlem or even Bellview for that matter. If I am a trauama victim, by all means but heart attack or CP no. You know my story and I know how situations like this make you feel. Me, they PO quite a bit. Lisa, thanks for everything:) you really are starting to make sense. I think i am way too cardiac aware right now myself. WHats real and whats in my head?



Some Tests, Long Ignored, Showed Signs of Heart Illness
By ANEMONA HARTOCOLLIS
Published: May 26, 2010
New York City’s public hospital system said on Wednesday that some of the thousands of heart test results that were never sent to doctors at Harlem Hospital Center since 2007 had shown signs of abnormal heart function.
Hospital officials made the admission a day after acknowledging that results of 4,000 of the tests, called echocardiograms, had never been seen by doctors because of a practice of allowing technicians to read them first.
On Tuesday, they said that no harm had been caused by the process because they believed that the technicians were so good at reading the tests. On Wednesday, they said their review undercut that belief.
A team of cardiologists has been working almost constantly since Friday to review those tests. The doctors have looked at 1,650 tests so far, finding signs of heart disease in some of them.
Ana Marengo, a spokeswoman for the hospital system, the Health and Hospitals Corporation, said that despite the abnormal results, a cross-check of medical charts had not shown that anyone did not get needed treatment.
The state health commissioner, Dr. Richard Daines, has ordered a state investigation into how the oversight occurred and whether there were any health hazards as a result.
Harlem Hospital serves largely black and Hispanic, often poor, patients, who tend to be at higher-than-average risk for heart diseases.
Dr. John N. Morley, the medical director of health care management systems for the State Health Department, who is leading the investigation, said on Wednesday that state officials would be reviewing charts and interviewing physicians to determine whether lives had been put at risk.
Asked if the situation at Harlem Hospital was unusual, he said, “Very.” He added, “We want to know what happened that allowed this to develop as long as it did, what’s their process and how will they ensure that this doesn’t happen again.” The clinical director of the hospital’s department of medicine has been fired, and the medical director was demoted.
Ms. Marengo said she could not say exactly how many of the tests reviewed so far had shown signs of heart disease. Echocardiograms are ultrasound pictures that can show how well the heart is squeezing or whether there is a potentially fatal accumulation of fluid around the heart.
Experts said the tests could be urgent and were usually prescribed because a patient was showing symptoms like shortness of breath, swollen legs, fatigue or chest pain.
Having 4,000 tests done and unread is unheard of, and is “unconscionable and unacceptable and malpractice as far as I’m concerned,” Dr. Douglas Zipes, a cardiologist at Indiana University Medical Center, past president of the American College of Cardiology and editor of HeartRhythm, said on Wednesday. “I can’t use more adjectives than that.”
Dr. Zipes said that at his hospital, echocardiograms were read in less than two hours.
“If a postal clerk has not delivered mail for three years, past bills and things like that are not going to affect someone’s life,” he said. “These absolutely affect many people’s lives, and I would bet that there are deaths directly attributable to the failure to read these echocardiograms.”
Ms. Marengo, the Health and Hospitals Corporation spokeswoman, said that at this point, she could not say whether any of the 4,000 patients with unread tests had died.
City hospital officials said technicians had been reading the tests and sending those that looked bad to doctors. But the 4,000 tests the technicians did not believe were abnormal apparently languished in a computer. On Wednesday, the hospital officials said that some of those tests had indeed shown signs of abnormalities.
Dr. Zipes said he did not think technicians were a substitute for doctors.
“We have the technicians do the echos, but then they’re read by the doctors,” he said. “I would not have it any other way.”
Dr. Morley said the most serious problems found in echocardiograms, like severe aorta problems, would call for immediate treatment. The actor John Ritter and Jonathan Larson, who wrote the musical “Rent,” both died of such problems, he said.
But Dr. Morley said many patients were likely to get more than one test, so their problems would be spotted even if some echocardiograms had not been read. He said echocardiograms came back normal about half the time.