Group Health pays patient $2.5M to settle lawsuit
Group Health Cooperative has paid a patient $2.5 million to settle a lawsuit claiming delays in treatment caused her permanent damage.
Seattle Times health reporter
Group Health Cooperative has paid a patient $2.5 million to settle a lawsuit claiming delays in treatment caused her to suffer permanent bladder and colon injuries and partial paralysis in her legs.
Shari Stoican, 51, of Edmonds, originally saw Group Health providers on June 15, 2010, for hip pain, foot numbness and calf cramping. Her symptoms worsened over the next several days.
Although she repeatedly alerted Group Health to alarming, quickly progressing symptoms, Stoican said in a statement announcing the settlement, "I could not get through the Group Health maze to see the type of medical providers I needed to see."
The lawsuit claims that numerous delays in connecting her to a specialist and in scheduling and getting an MRI — which revealed a large cyst compressing her spinal nerves — led to permanent injury.
Stoican and a non-Group Health doctor she consulted in frustration persuaded Group Health to schedule the MRI, but it was booked nearly a month away at the end of July.
Stoican got it rescheduled to Friday, July 2. But it wasn't read until four days later, after the long holiday weekend. By then, Stoican had lost control of her bladder and bowels, and walking had become extremely difficult and painful, the lawsuit said.
"Had an MRI been ordered, and Shari been examined correctly early on, she would likely be fine today," said her lawyer, Jeffery Campiche. " It is a lesson that Group Health needs to take to heart."
Group Health, a health-maintenance organization, is both insurer and provider for more than 629,000 members in Washington and Idaho.
In a statement, Group Health said its physicians refer patients to medical imaging based on their condition and symptoms.
"The attending physician can order an urgent reading of a medical image if the patient communicates acute symptoms or there is an emergent injury. This means the imaging will be read by radiology immediately.
"If the patient does not communicate critical symptoms or an emergent issue is not apparent, the reading of the image is delivered within the next business day."
Group Health spokeswoman Katie McCarthy said federal and state laws prohibit it from discussing detailed information about patients.
"Our physicians and other health-care team members work hard to ensure that the care and service we provide meet their patients' expectations and needs."
Carol M. Ostrom: 206-464-2249 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @costrom.