Hospital “Incident Reports” must be shown to the Plaintiff/patient
In this case, Dr. Datar Singh, the Defendant obstetrician, was the on-call “house” attending obstetrician in charge of our mother-client’s labor and delivery. As the only “house” obstetrician treating multiple labor patients at West Penn Hospital during his shift, Dr. Singh was required to remain in the hospital per hospital policy; however, Dr. Singh decided to leave the hospital to have dinner at a Chinese restaurant.
During the time Dr. Singh was out of the hospital, his patient’s fetal heart tones went 46 minutes without being recorded. Once the monitor began recording again, another 14 minutes passed with ominous fetal heart tracings before a resident ordered a STAT C-section, then another 21 minutes passed while the operating room team waited for Dr. Singh to come back to the hospital. Ultimately, contrary to hospital policy, a resident had to perform the STAT C-section with no supervision because the obstetrical team assembled in the operating room simply could not wait for Dr. Singh any longer. These delays all took place in a setting where every minute counts, every second counts.
Tragically, as a result of the delays, the baby suffered a brain injury and has diagnosed with cerebral palsy.
Among many depositions, we took the deposition of the “charge nurse” who was a witness to these events. The charge nurse recalled the resident obstetrician calling Dr. Singh to tell him that the fetal heart tone pattern “isn’t looking good.” It was during this phone call that the resident and nurses first learned that Dr. Singh left the hospital to have dinner (without telling anyone). When asked if she let anyone know that Dr. Singh was not in the hospital, she testified that she may have done a “report” on it. She also testified that no one followed up with her on her report and that she did not believe it was confidential. The hospital however, refused to turn over the report, claiming that it was confidential and peer review protected per §§ 310(b) and 311 of the MCARE Act statute.
We then filed a Motion and argued this issue before Judge R. Stanton Wettick, the special “discovery” judge in Allegheny County. In a widely published Order and Opinion, Judge Wettick held that the incident report was not barred from discovery.
As it relates to the case, the incident report was critical as it established facts that the Defendant doctor was disputing such as it being made apparent to him during the phone call that the fetal heart monitor tones were ominous, that he was actually having dinner at the restaurant as opposed to picking up take out, etc.
As it relates to medical malpractice cases in general in Pennsylvania, the Opinion established law that incident reports, significant documents written in real time by health care providers, are discoverable. This Opinion has helped our firm and many others obtain incident reports that previously would not have been discoverable.