Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Group works for patient safety



By Jim Hannah
The Cincinnati Enquirer

NEWPORT - Vickie Poynter wants her son's death to mean something. .

Her son was stabbed in the neck during a bar brawl four years ago; then a nurse mistakenly gave her son a fatal overdose of narcotics less than 24 hours later at the hospital. Poynter is still angry that criminal charges weren't brought.

"If you get in a car drunk and kill someone, you are going to jail," said Poynter, of Bellevue. "If you die at the hospital because of a mistake, police don't even investigate."

Vickie and her husband, Rodney Poynter, say that an out-of-court settlement reached in September with the hospital helped bring closure to the case, but it didn't dull the sting of having their son die because of a mistake made at the hospital.

That's why the couple has joined forces with a new advocacy group called Patient Safety Advocates of Kentucky. It's a nonprofit group based in Frankfort and aimed at improving patient safety and protection of the rights of injured people through education and accountability.

Joseph Poynter's official cause of death is listed as "misadministration of narcotics" at the hospital, although the 27-year-old Newport man was stabbed in the neck during a fight at BarbZ' lounge in Newport.

"Doctors told us he was going to survive the stabbing," his father, Rodney Poynter, said. "He died a few hours later. That's why we knew something wasn't right."

Jason Baird, executive director of the advocacy organization Kentucky Watch, said 10 Northern Kentucky residents are joining the group.

"Patient Safety Advocates of Kentucky will work in their communities and with Kentucky elected officials to promote reasonable solutions to the issues facing patient safety and the Kentucky health care system," said Baird.

He said the group will introduce pro-patient legislation before the 2004 session that will include limiting medical interns' work to 24 hours at a time, mandating that doctors write all prescriptions legibly and requiring state officials to inspect hospitals annually.

Baird said the group will campaign against caps being placed on medical malpractice awards, but he admits it might be a tough battle since governor-elect Ernie Fletcher has already come out in support of such caps.

Rodney Poynter said he fears any such caps would make it virtually impossible for people like him to sue a major hospital.

"We had trouble getting a lawyer to take our case," he said. "If you place a cap on awards at something like $250,000, malpractice suits are not going to be worth the risk for a lawyer to take on."

Vickie Poynter says she hopes the newly formed group can make positive changes so families like hers don't feel victimized by the hospital. "We didn't want to sue," she said. "That was our last option. We wrote a letter to the hospital asking them what happened. They never responded ... never apologized."

For more information, call (800) 875-7221 or log onto www.kentuckywatch.org

E-mail jhannah@enquirer.com




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