Hospital responds to lawsuit

December 2, 2013
A view of Southwest Regional Medical Center in Waynesburg

WAYNESBURG – In response to recent allegations by a former employee against Southwest Regional Medical Center, the Pennsylvania Department of Health, in an unannounced visit last month, conducted an inspection and analysis of care provided at the hospital.

Three DOH inspectors “poured over patient and personnel charts relevant to the allegations” made by Marie Gillispie, who claims in a federal lawsuit filed Oct. 22 that she was fired from her job after she requested that alleged violations of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act be reported to the Department of Health and to the Patient Safety Authority

According to a hospital release, the investigation revealed the allegations to have been “misplaced and unwarranted.” In the release, the hospital included the following DOH statement:

“This report is the result of an unannounced onsite complaint investigation completed on November 1, 2013 at Southwest Regional Medical Center. It was determined that the facility was in compliance with the requirements of the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s Rules and Regulations for Hospitals.”

Gillispie contended she was tasked with investigating the death of an Intensive Care Unit patient by SWRMC CEO Cynthia Cowie and reporting her findings to her.

Gillispie alleges in the suit that her investigation revealed that the nursing staff and the respiratory therapist failed in their duty to provide competent medical care to the patient. Gillispie categorized the care as “grossly negligent,” and stated it was her belief that the patient’s death was unnecessary and likely preventable.

Gillispie said she reported the findings to Cowie on or about Oct. 23, 2012, and asked if she was to report the incident to the Patient Care Authority. Gillispie alleges Cowie told her no such report was to be made and that the state was at the hospital a little over a month prior and it could not afford another investigation. Gillispie asked if a letter could be sent to the patient’s family explaining the circumstances of the patient’s care and death and was told no letter was to be written, according to the suit.

“The complaint, as evidenced by the findings of the DOH, among other sources, is groundless and will be vigorously defended by the hospital,” the release said.

“Southwest Regional Medical Center remains committed to providing quality healthcare for the community,” said Southwest Regional’s chief medical officer Dr. Jami Diamond Boris. “These are serious allegations, and we will vigorously defend the good work we do every day. The Department of Health visit was the first of many steps, which will provide our community the assurance it deserves. The DOH report, which completely exonerated the Medical Center of any non-compliance issues, paves the way for us to move forward with continuing to provide quality healthcare for our community,” Boris said.

Finally, the release said despite the serious financial impact on small community hospitals by the new Affordable Care Act, as well as the impact resulting from this recent legal issue, Southwest Regional Medical Center has committed that it will not be deterred from its sincere drive to support the community with high quality medical care.

“With the many changes in healthcare, we are moving forward to provide the level and quality of care that is right for our community,” Boris said. “Having the support, trust and faith of our community is imperative to the future survival of Southwest Regional Medical Center.”

Jon Stevens was the Observer-Reporter’s Greene County bureau chief. During his 41 years with the O-R, he covered county government, courts and politics, and won statewide and regional writing awards.

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