Strong Memorial denies knowing woman hit by car may have intended to harm herself
Submitted by Howard B. Owens on July 19, 2011 - 5:48pm
On the night that a 49-year-old Le Roy woman stepped in front of a moving car on East Main Street, apparently on purpose, a Batavia Police officer, according supervisors, notified Strong Memorial Hospital that the woman may be a danger to herself.
Less 48 hours after the woman was struck by a late model, black Saturn, the woman was dead. The victim of a self-inflected gunshot wound.
The woman's seemingly quick discharge from Strong has raised questions in the community about what happened at the hospital while the woman was under treatment.
Federal law prohibits the hospital from discussing details of patient care, but a spokeswoman for Strong, contradicting police statements, said she doesn't believe caregivers were made aware of the woman's mental status.
"We're deeply saddened to learn of this woman's death, but do not believe that staff caring for her in our emergency department were aware that the injuries may have been intentional," said Teri D'Agostino, communications director for Strong. "We are conducting a thorough review of this patient's care."
Lt. James Henning, Batavia PD, said the investigating officer, Chris Camp, called Strong immediately after he completed taking written statements from witnesses.
The statements, Henning said, were consistent enough to believe the woman intentionally stepped in front of a moving car, so Camp placed a phone call to Strong.
"The appropriate notifications were made," Henning said.
Camp, he said, kept careful notes about whom he spoke with at Strong.
Mercy Flight/Mercy EMS personnel are also prohibited by HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) from discussing the specific case, but Vice President and CFO Margie Ferrentino explained that a medical record is created and transported with the patient and given to hospital personnel.
The record would contain any information gathered about the patient relevant to how injuries were sustained.
"The record includes any observations our medics made or statements they heard, from either the patient, police or bystanders," Ferrentino said.
If medics were told the woman may have intended to injure herself, that information would typically be contained in the written medical record transported with the patient.
Sgt. John Peck, Batavia PD, said Mercy EMS personnel were made aware at the scene, before the woman was transported, of witness statements indicating the injuries may have been intentional.
D'Agostino said the hospital has very definite guidelines about how to deal with patients that may intend to harm themselves, if staff know about the mental state of the patient.
"Strong Memorial Hospital is devoted to treating each patient’s immediate illness or injury, and we always seek to better understand how the injury occurred," said D'Agostino said as part of an ongoing e-mail interview. "Our staff are especially sensitive to the possibility of self-injurious behavior.
"Most often, first responders, family members, and patients themselves provide clues that indicate when injuries have been deliberate or self-inflicted," she added. "Whenever we have concerns that people might be dangerous to themselves or to others, we provide, without hesitation, a formal psychiatric evaluation."
When medical personnel become aware that a patient is a threat to him or herself, the patient can be held, under state law, for observation.
"If a patient is thought to be a danger to themselves or others, our physicians have the ability to detain patients here against their will – until they are evaluated, have received care, and our staff is comfortable that it is safe for them to leave," D'Agostino said.
However, D'Agostino also said that sometimes, patients hide or deny their intentions, which could complicate the hospital's ability to legally hold the patient for evaluation.
Both Peck and Henning agreed, and discussed how in their experience, people taken to hospitals because of suicide threats often turn right around and deny the intent or say they no longer have such an intent, leading to the patient's discharge.
In the case of the 49-year-old woman from Le Roy, D'Agostino said Strong takes seriously the sad turn of events and is reviewing its care of this patient.