The Pennsylvania Superior Court recently affirmed a medical malpractice case verdict against Temple University Hospital, a facility within the Temple University Health System (TUH). Plaintiff Annabelle Glasgow brought the claim after acquiring a bacterial infection from a knee surgery operation. Dr. Easwaran Balasubramanian and Dr. Frederick Nissley were the orthopedic surgeons largely responsible for her care.
The defendants were accused of failing to test and diagnose the infection until it had spread and forced her to endure a leg amputation. The jury allocated the negligence as 40% to Balasubramanian and 30% each to Nissley and TUH. The award of over $4.5 million was for damages including pain and suffering, medical expenses and lost wages.
Balasubramanian provided care for Glasgow's degenerative arthritis in her knees. He soon suggested that a surgical knee replacement was the best course of action. Glasgow's medical history included heart problems, stroke, and diabetes. The plaintiffs asserted that the defendant failed to conduct a sufficient pre-surgical assessment. The claim stated that the physician would have clearly recognized the increased risks of the procedure if he had not demonstrated such negligence.
Balasubramanian was the lead surgeon on the plaintiff's knee and collaborated with Nissley in postoperative care. The infection began to develop several weeks after the procedure. This led to a series of five additional procedures in the knee regions to stop the infection. Glasgow eventually went to Pennsylvania Presbyterian Hospital to see another orthopedic expert. It was at this facility that the doctors informed her that amputation of the leg was necessary. Balasubramanian is currently still practicing within the Einstein Health System.
Latest in Series of Problems at TUH
According to the Philadelphia Business Journal, the TUH system has faced some significant financial problems in recent years such as the following:
- In 2017, the system reported losing $5.8 million
- In the first part of 2018, they have continued to absorb losses of roughly $30 million
- The Temple University Board of Trustees has hired financial consultants to assess their options and consider selling their Fox Chase Cancer Center and Jeanes Hospital facilities
- Many of their financial problems are believed to stem from having the largest percentage of Medicaid patients of all the Pennsylvania hospitals
Infections in Orthopedic Surgery
The majority of broken bones do not ultimately result in any type of infection; however, when this occurs there may be some significant complications. Bacteria can enter the body either during surgery or after. The most likely case is when there is an open (compound) fracture where a bone breaks through the skin. The wound is a potential point of access for harmful bacteria. Often patients are given antibiotics prior to surgery as a means of preventing a possible infection. Some patients are at greater risk for infections, such as those with diabetes, immune system disorders, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Negligence Among Multiple Defendants
In this case, there were two physicians and the hospital named as defendants and the jury assigned a percentage or contribution of fault between them. Under Pennsylvania law, each defendant may be assigned a portion of the liability. When the jury determines the final amount to be awarded to the plaintiff then each defendant is responsible for that corresponding percentage (ratio) as a dollar amount. For example, in this case the total award was $4.57 million and Dr. Nissley was found to be 30% liability, thus responsible for roughly $1.37 million.