BOCA RATON, FL (BocaNewsNow.com) — West Boca Medical Center — and its parent company Tenet Health Care — lost a major legal round this week when a Florida court ruled that the company can be sued in a medical malpractice case that stretches back more than a decade. Susan Special, 38, died during childbirth at the hospital in 2003.
While it’s troubling that a woman would die in childbirth in a modern hospital, what’s even more troubling is that West Boca Medical Center is so often a punchline — considered a second choice to Boca’s first class Boca Regional Medical Center.
A trip to West Boca’s emergency room several weeks ago at the urging of a primary care physician revealed again why some of Boca’s most elite doctors make comments like, “What?! You went to West Boca? That’s your first problem!”
West Boca’s ER is adorned with a banner promoting that it’s won a “Most Improved” award. “Most Improved” is something that’s supposed to precede “Camper” — not “Hospital.” It’s one thing if you’re better at Color War this summer than you were last summer. It’s something else if your medical care was so problematic that improving it generated recognition.
While there is no question that the emergency nursing staff is top notch, caring and first rate, there is clearly a communication problem in the West Boca ER. Questions were routinely re-asked by staffer after staffer — not because they were looking for consistency, but because they truly didn’t know the question had been asked before.
The D.O. on duty — and we have no problem with D.O’s, many are as good as M.D.s — was not having a good day. (We are purposely not identifying the doc). The doctor was at lunch — leaving the ER unstaffed — and had to be found to order pain meds for an excruciating condition. The nurse ran at a high rate of speed to find the doctor. This shouldn’t have to happen. ER’s should be staffed.
A tremendous amount of attention in the ER was being paid to the football game on monitors over the bed of a “Baker Act” patient. Despite HIPPA rules and regulations, the guards holding clipboards with the words “BAKER ACT” in huge letters made it clear that the patient was there for psychiatric reasons — and wasn’t seeing or hearing things when a crowd stood around his bed, cheering.
And ultimately, our doctor’s diagnosis was wrong. So wrong that two very respected Boca-area doctors in the week after the ER visit made almost identical comments: “The doctor would have been just as correct to suggest that the condition was caused by space aliens.”
Then there’s the bill. No one expects a free ride. And no one is surprised when a 4 hour ER visit runs several thousand dollars. But Tenet Health Care — owner of West Boca Medical Center — actually charged $225 for medication that could be purchased at Publix, without insurance, for $1. That’s one heck of a mark-up. In fairness, BlueCross/BlueShield of Florida says the pricing is legitimate — but it’s clear why Tenet just reported record earnings.
Which brings us full circle. If Tenet is making so much money — and is the company behind the well respected Delray Medical and Trauma Center — why is West Boca Medical Center so often a punchline? West Boca deserves a first rate hospital.
We’d like to see Tenet direct the resources, and staffing, to make it so.