Plaintiff Cynthia Hawthorne claims that Brattleboro Memorial Hospital (BMH) did not notify her about the results of a test that showed a “highly suspicious mass” present on her kidney. The suit names George Terwilliger, department director at BMH, as a defendant; however, the hospital explained that they actually “outsource” the operations of the department to Dartmouth Hitchcock Clinic, through a contract that began in 2012. Counsel for BMH has asked a federal court to assign responsibility for potential damages to Dartmouth Hitchcock.
During Hawthorne’s visit, a CT scan was completed that showed the unusual mass on her left kidney. Unfortunately, it is alleged that she was not notified of the problem for over two years, when the cancer had already spread to her lungs. Kidney cancer, known as renal cancer, occurs when a cancerous growth (tumor) develops on the kidneys. CT scans are generally the most effective means of detection. In most cases, renal cancer that is detected early can be prevented from spreading any further.
Hawthorne initially was suffering from pain in the abdomen region. In addition to the CT scan, she was treated with pain medication and intravenous liquids, and the preliminary diagnosis was a potential infection of the colon. The claim states that as a result of her condition, Hawthorne fears death, endured emotional distress, as well as pain & suffering. In addition, her future is believed to now be deprived of enjoyment and the ability to earn a living. Recently, she underwent a necessary procedure that removed the cancerous kidney.
The Vermont Division of Licensing & Protection (DLP) has recognized and cited the facility for the error in notifying the plaintiff as part of their investigation. BMH has since developed a remedial “correction plan” that was provided to and accepted by the DLP; a hospital spokesman says that after the incident they have “instituted multiple improvements in care processes”.
Attorneys for the hospital have asserted a request for a third party complaint against Dartmouth Hitchcock, which suggests their medical liability in the matter. The complaint seeks indemnification and that Dartmouth Hitchcock acknowledges responsibility. According to Gina Pattison, the Director of Development & Marketing for BMH, the medical professionals that staff the department are all Dartmouth Hitchcock employees. BMH and Dartmouth have indicated that they intend to work in a collaborative manner to address the malpractice claim.
The relationship between the two entities is outlined in an Emergency Department Coverage Agreement, which is a contract that makes Dartmouth the sole provider of emergency services at the facility. A clause was cited that states Dartmouth “will indemnify BMH from liabilities that occur during treatment” such as negligence that is demonstrated from actions or inactions.
A hospital attorney explained that the court may simply require that Dartmouth agree to pay the potential judgment and resulting legal expenses from the case. BMH is a 61-bed, non-profit, community hospital that was established in 1904 to serve the rural population of just over 50,000 residents.