Echocardiogram Bait and Switch

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ANEMONA HARTOCOLLIS in a recent New York Times article describes outrageous behavior by the clinical director and medical director of Harlem medical center. Under the direction of these former hospital officers (they have since been fired and demoted,  respectively) the cardiology department of the Medical Center permitted 4,000 echocardiograms performed on patients suffering from suspected cardiac problems to be read only by technicians. The tests supposed to be read by cardiologists were not submitted to any doctor for review. An investigation  conducted by physicians from another medical center suggests hundreds of these patients may have suffered serious harm as a consequence of inadequately skilled technicians reviewing these tests instead of cardiologists.  In an apparent cost cutting move, Harlem Medical Center had allowed their staff of cardiologists to be reduced. The cardiologists claimed the back log of echocardiograms requiring physician review accumulated at the rate of 2500 per year. The Harlem Medical Center cardiologists’ cries for additional staff went unheeded.  Harlem Medical Center continues to deny that any patient suffered harm.

Certainly patients who trusted the Harlem Medical Center  have been betrayed. Can anyone believe that similar problems are not occurring with some frequency elsewhere? The only real oversight is limited help that medical malpractice lawyers can provide victims after the fact.  And yet trial lawyers are besieged in the Legislature of most states and by members of the Congress who are blind and deaf to the pleas of victims  to not restrict the only tool available to most victims to uncover the truth and seek justice.

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