Sucky Hospital Workers Launch Investigation Against Reader

Longtime Consumerist reader and commenter AppTechie went through a real horror show after his 3 year old son fractured his arm.

As if the injury weren’t bad enough, he soon found himself under the fell gaze of Child Protective Services after the workers of the Hospital Corporation of America mistook his Asian wife’s stoicism for not “being comforting enough.”

Because of the inquiry by CPS, the setting of AppTechie’s son’s arm was delayed by two excruciating days.

AppTechie has inquired with malpractice lawyers but they have told him that, “because of riders on the new laws regarding a cap on what a person can win i a medical malpractice case, doctors, and especially ER doctors, are practically bulletproof for engaging in dangerous practices with patients and that we have no way to win a case like this one without extraordinary expenditure for experts and the like.”

Do you agree? Does AppTechie have a case? Or should he just try and get on with his life? Read his story inside.


AppTechie writes:

    “I am hoping you would do me a favor and tell my family’s story…

    On Friday October 6th, my wife got a call from our babysitter. She explained that our son was complaining about his arm hurting. My wife asked her if she should take him to the doctor and the sitter said she didn’t know. She then decided, since it was our son’s nap time, that he should go ahead with his nap and have the sitter call back if it was still hurting afterwards. Two hours later, the sitter calls. My wife then goes and picks up our son and takes him to the doctor. The doctor explains that she, a stand-in for his normal pediatrician, thinks it might be nursemaids arm. She attempts to set our son’s arm, very gently mind you, and then explains that she no longer thinks it is nursemaids arm. She tells my wife to go across the street to the hospital, Medical Center of Plano (owned by the evil HCA, I have come to find out). She also has the nurses in his doctor’s office call ahead to the hospital to advise them that an x-ray is being ordered by the primary care physician.

    This is where the real nightmare begins:

    My wife takes my son to the hospital ER. He is admitted and they are taken to a room. They ask my wife what happened and she gave her best answer, we still didn’t know exactly how it happened at that point. The doctor seeing my son thinks it is nursemaid’s arm too and enlists a nurse to set his arm again! Mind you, they went against his PCP’s order for an x-ray. The doctor and nurse, according to my wife, aggressively attempt to set his arm causing him pain. The doctor then enlists the aid of another doctor, who we think was the attending, to do the same with the same result. Now keep in mind, my son is ONLY 3 YEARS OLD!!! The attending then orders the original doctor to get an x-ray on my son’s arm, finally following the orders from his PCP. Sure enough, my son’s arm is fractured. It was around this time that I became aware of the situation with a call from my wife and I quickly headed over to the hospital. When I arrived, my son was surrounded by medical personnel and my wife. I went ahead and picked him up and started asking questions. They showed me the x-ray and where his arm was fractured, then they splinted his arm. Thinking everything was okay at this point, we went home. My wife and I decided that it would be good to see his family in Austin so she went ahead took him.

    Upping the ante:

    Sunday morning rolls around and I am sleeping in late. A benefit of the wife and son being in Austin. The doorbell rings around 10 AM rousing me from some fairly restful sleep. Wondering what the hell is going on, I go answer the door. At the door? Child Protective Services. I ask what she is doing there and she tells me that Medical Center of Plano filed a complaint against us. I am totally aghast at this point because that makes no sense. I ask her what the complaint is and she tells me, “They said that your wife wasn’t being comforting enough and that they received conflicting stories regarding his injury.” Realizing that a negative response would hinder the positive resolution of this crap, I hold my tongue instead of screaming bloody murder. My wife is a first generation Asian American (the first in her family born in the states after they escaped from Vietnam during the war). Socially, Southeast Asians tend toward stoicism and their stating that my wife was not being comforting shows a total lack of understanding of different cultures. At this point I am completely appalled at the hospital and their total lack of caring for a patient and his parents. She interviews me about my sons care and the incident in question. I explain that my wife and son are in Austin and she says that that is fine and that she will call my wife later to schedule an interview. To this day, she has never called to speak with my wife nor to schedule an interview.

    Raising the stakes even further:

    Monday rolls around and we schedule the appointment with my son’s orthopaedist so that he can get a cast on his arm. A CPS supervisor calls and says that we have to take him to the REACH clinic at Children’s Medicine Center in Dallas that day. I explain to her that my son has an appointment with his orthopaedist so that a cast can be put on his arm and she tells me that the REACH clinic will take care of that and to cancel his original appointment. I say ok and we head down to the REACH clinic so we can be there at the appointed time. I have my wife fill out the paperwork while I run to get food for our whole family, as we hadn’t had a chance to eat lunch yet during the hour drive to the clinic. When I return, we are called into the room and asked to strip our son and put a hospital gown on him. We do, then wait a short time for the doctor to arrive. When the doctor arrives, she has with her a resident and a Social Worker. They proceed to interview us and check our son over. After they are done checking him, obviously for any sign of abuse, I ask them when his cast will be put on his arm. I am told that they do not do that there, which is the exact opposite of what CPS told me, and that they could try to get us into the orthopaedist at the hospital but the wait could be four hours. We explain that that is not necessary and that we will take him to his original orthopaedist, which we find out isn’t available until Wednesday morning. Due to CPS’s negligence and lack of caring, our son’s care was delayed for TWO DAYS. Is it just me, or isn’t that what CPS is supposed to be preventing?

    Taking it home:

    After all of this crap, I begin inquiring with medical malpractice lawyers about whether or not we have a case. When I finally receive a response, the answer is appalling. I am told that because of riders on the new laws regarding a cap on what a person can win i a medical malpractice case, doctors, and especially ER doctors, are practically bulletproof for engaging in dangerous practices with patients and that we have no way to win a case like this one without extraordinary expenditure for experts and the like.

    So now I bring this to you. I have been reading your site for quite a while now and I don’t know what else I can do but try to get this out in the media so that no other parent has to go through this experience with a company as horrible as HCA again. Please help.”

Comments

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  1. He says:

    One more thing you can do is give the ER docs bad marks on http://ratemds.com/

    And start taping your conversations with social workers as per all the guides.

  2. even if it’s not through a legal route, i’d be surprised if there wasn’t some benefit to be had by simple publicity. restitution may be out of the question, but maybe hca (or whoever) can at least be embarrassed into an apology.

    i don’t think medical personnel should be discouraged in the least from being super-sensitive to possible abuse situations, but under no circumstances should it affect the level of care afforded to the child.

  3. ReccaSquirrel says:

    I can’t say much when it comes to malpractice. This, however, is clearly a problem with the system when it comes to CPS, DHS and other similar agencies.

    There is no excuse for treatment to have been withheld. If they felt that the child was at risk, they should have immediately seen to the child’s medical care. Forcing a child to go without care is completely unacceptable.

    Unless the actions of the hospital for nursemaid’s arm caused further harm, there is no action I see you can seek. Unnecessary pain, unfortunately, is not seen as further harm in a hospital environment.

  4. Antrack says:

    I believe that the lawyers are telling you that the ER doctors are liable only for any damage caused by the resetting of the arm, which is nominal, so you can’t recover.

    The ER staff calls CPS at their own discretion, and they were not negligent in calling if they had even the slightest suspicion. ER personnel can’t be held responsible for learning your wife’s history, etc. That’s the social worker’s job.

    While CPS might have been negligent in sending you to Dallas, the hospital is not responsible for these actions or the resulting delay in care. Thus, they can not be held liable.

  5. Smashville says:

    How is it sucky for hospital workers to investigate what they believe might be child abuse? It is the hospital’s responsibility by law to inform DCS of any suspected child abuse.

    If you didn’t abuse your child, you have nothing to worry about.

  6. Ass_Cobra says:

    I think it’s unfortunate that no one in the hospital understood enough about south east asian culture to put a head to this (there is a substantial Vietnamese population in Dallas and many work in the medical field) but I think that ER docs are damned if they do, damned if they don’t in this case. I’d rather they err on the side of caution and interview any parent that came in and couldn’t fully and convincingly explain the cause of a child’s injury.

    This does not however excuse the doctor from attempting to set your child’s arm without first running the proper tests to ensure a good course of treatment. Also the screw up on the clinic visit is clearly something that should be remedied. I doubt the social worker knew that they wouldn’t be able to set the arm at the clinic, but that still doesn’t excuse it.

    Sorry your son received poor treatment. That’s the real issue here. I think the title for this post tends to overstate the less important aspect of the experience in favor of sensationalising the portion that most concerned parents were least worried about. I mean you would probably undergo a full body cavity and take a piss test if it meant they would have gotten the diagnosis and treatment right the first time.

  7. ACurmudgeon says:

    Unless you are worried about getting your child’s arm set in a timely manner….

  8. aka Cat says:

    I don’t understand — why didn’t the ER arrange to have your son’s arm set immediately? That seems odd, but there may have been a legit medical reason for it. If there wasn’t, I’d push to get them to credit you for the ER & Dr fees for that visit.

    As for them calling CPS, that sucks but as RowdyRoddyPiper said, the ER docs are damned if they do, damned if they don’t.

    CPS lying to you to get you to cancel your son’s orthopaedic appointment definately stinks. You should probably file a complaint against the worker who did that, so that (maybe) it won’t happen again.

  9. The_Truth says:

    What about charging them with child abuse and neglect having proved that you were not bad parents?

  10. North of 49 says:

    CPS is NEVER your friend. It is their goal to justify their jobs and find “evidence” of abuse. We are going through yet another investigation with allegations from a previous worker that were supposed to have been dealt with through a lawyer and dismissed. We just love that they’ve told the female half of us that she knows nothing of child development yet that is the same worker who dismissed our son’s hearing problems as “lack of socialization.” We “socialized” him according to their rules (daycare) and his speech did not improve and in fact, six months later, his hearing was tested and it shows that there is a problem.
    And, of course, the entire problem is directed at her and not the male half of the equation.
    Or that we were begging for help when the male half had a heart attack and they said that they had no funds for anything to help us, even though we, by then, had a 6 week old newborn girl (now 2) and our son (then 2, now 4) as well.
    Now, that there’s a third child in the mix, and there’s “funds” from a “native group” because of the female half’s ancestry (she might be 10% at the most) we suddenly get a homemaker for one hour a week. How is that one hour supposed to help us? The female half is 6 days post op and 18 days post partum and having even more problems. She’s trying to do more than just diapers and nursing the newborn, and he’s trying to keep the house running.
    You would think if they actually cared about helping us, they would help us, instead of dictate what we have to do to be “appropriate” parents of our own children.
    And then, to top it off, back during the summer, there was a news story about how this one foster mother on the island had food and dishes rotting in the sink/kitchen for weeks and they never took her license away for years. Yet, if we have any dishes in the sink, we’re filthy. We just don’t get them!

  11. emtx says:

    Don’t blame the hospital, at least for calling CPS. Find out what happened when your child was with the babysitter!!! No one, including children, just “break their arm”. Cultural differences may have contributed but any ER staff who doesn’t call CPS in when a child has an unexplained fracture will be sued for malpractice. Regarding splinting this is a common thing to do to let the swelling decrease.

  12. LLH says:

    first mistake – not going straight to the ER. a 3yo’s bones are quite easily fractured. any ER doctor knows this and would not try to “set” it without first checking that is was or was not broken/fractured. i would also have a chat with your sitter to find out exactly how he hurt his arm. if it was around the wrist area, this is a common area that doctors look at in child abuse cases. but seeing as no x-rays were taken to see if a radial fracture was present alarm bells should not have gone up. this is why protective services were called (imho):
    >>>>The doctor seeing my son thinks it is nursemaid’s arm too and enlists a nurse to set his arm again! Mind you, they went against his PCP’s order for an x-ray. The doctor and nurse, according to my wife, aggressively attempt to set his arm causing him pain. The doctor then enlists the aid of another doctor, who we think was the attending, to do the same with the same result.>>>>
    it’s called shifting the blame. the attending must have realized their huge clusterfuck and decided that you wouldn’t be able to sue if you were defending yourself against child abuse. and the reason the lawyers are putting you off is that cap they mentioned. they didn’t happend to tell you the cap is in place because of them! they don’t want to take your case because not enough is in it for them. contact the aclu (http://www.aclu.org) in your area. the comment about your wife is totally against the law. they will help you find a lawyer in your area that WILL help you.

  13. kenposan says:

    Guess I’ll step in as a Social Worker here. I don’t know about Texas, but in Ohio CPS doesn’t seek to justify their jobs by finding “evidence”. There are plenty of stupid, idiotic parents out there to keep them plenty busy. I work in foster care and see the results of this daily. I also used to do investigations of foster parents and always found the CPS investigators fair.

    But to this case: The supervisor at CPS should have know that REACH wouldn’t set the arm. Obviously CPS uses this clinic frequently for questionable cases. They should know what goes on there. My guess is the supervisor simply lied or just said that to ensure you would show up. Either way, not acceptable. Call CPS and ask for the supervisor’s supervisor. Also contact CPSs Ombudsman and file a formal complaint.

    Complaining to the press may get you some milage as well.

  14. mechanismatic says:

    Smashville,

    Saying that “If you didn’t abuse your child, you have nothing to worry about,” sounds eerily a lot like the excuses people make for witch trials.

    Just because someone is innocent doesn’t mean they have nothing to fear from an investigation, especially if that investigation is being run by people specifically looking for any (even false) sign of something to jump on.

    I can’t say whether or not calling CPS was warranted since I wasn’t there and have no expertise in that area, but everyone has something to lose in an investigation, even if they’re innocent.

  15. RumorsDaily says:

    North of 49, I find your halves confusing.

  16. Sam Glover says:

    Who knows whether he has a case, but to me, this is textbook poor customer service. Filing a complaint with CPS may have been warranted, but the fact that the CPS inquiry prevented him from being treated for two days is horrible.

    Make sure the right people know how awful the experience was, and particularly how angry you are that they delayed fixing your son’s arm as a result of their witch hunt–warranted or not. Your child’s health should come first, not second to a CPS inquiry!

  17. The doctor seeing my son thinks it is nursemaid’s arm too and enlists a nurse to set his arm again! Mind you, they went against his PCP’s order for an x-ray. The doctor and nurse, according to my wife, aggressively attempt to set his arm causing him pain.

    Makes me so mad I could scream. Are there any good ER doctors? How are y’all the ones accused of child abuse when they are the ones who’ve hurt your child? Not comforting enough? How about not trying to cause even more damage to the arm? That might be comforting.

    Get as much press as possible. People need to know to stay as far away from this hospital as possible.

  18. “When I finally receive a response, the answer is appalling. I am told that because of riders on the new laws regarding a cap on what a person can win i a medical malpractice case, doctors, and especially ER doctors, are practically bulletproof for engaging in dangerous practices with patients and that we have no way to win a case like this one without extraordinary expenditure for experts and the like.”

    This is why malpractice caps screw consumers. And why boughten-and-paid-for politicians with heavy donations from the health care and insurance industries usually support them. Politicians LOVE to go on about tort reform and about how health care bills are sooooooo expensive because of consumers suing doctors. Health care bills are expensive because of profit margins in the health care and insurance industries. And because bad doctors continue in practice becuase of exactly this problem: they’re bulletproof.

    I worked tangentially (as a law student interny type) on a case where a male ob/gyn was sexually molesting his patients. The lawyer couldn’t afford to take the case, but did convince the woman to go to the evening news to see if anyone else would come forward. SIXTY local women came forward, and then more in other states started coming forward. Not ONE had been able to sue becuase of the costs involved (and this was BEFORE the state capped awards!). By bringing together sixty plaintiffs, suing the doctor, two hospitals, and the insurer for negligence (the insurer and both hospitals knew about the abuse and failed to act), they were able to make the case affordable to bring. They won. Under the new caps in place in that state, the case could not have been brought even with sixty plaintiffs, and the doctor would still be in practice.

    As for CPS, that sucks, but it’s not uncommon. Me own sainted mother had CPS on her back at the ER after my brother swallowed a penny. (They demanded, “Why are you feeding your child coins???” while she’s bawling as they try to ensure he can continue to BREATHE.) On the one hand you want CPS to be protecting actual abused kids. On the other hand, this does mean there’s a lot of “false positives.”

  19. Jennifer42 says:

    “contact the aclu (http://www.aclu.org) in your area. the comment about your wife is totally against the law.”

    The comment about his spouse was ignorant, but not illegal- the ‘lack of concern’ claim is a common one.

    Also, the aclu covers only constitutional cases, this would be completely outside their bailiwick.

    A malpractice suit may be difficult, but I would see about getting the cps officials responsible for delaying treatment punished.

  20. phrygian says:

    If you didn’t abuse your child, you have nothing to worry about.

    Not exactly true.

    CPS here in North Texas is completely overloaded and tends to focus on “easy” cases when possible, to improve their case numbers. Responsible parents — the ones who aren’t beating/neglecting their kids — show up to the appointments and tend not to move at the first sign of an inquiry, which (unfortunately) makes it easier for CPS to continue the investigative process. Parents with “nothing to worry about” still end up pleading their cases in front of grand juries and even a “no bill” doesn’t remove them from CPS’ computers.

  21. AppTechie says:

    Thank you all. My son’s primary physician has even written a letter, generally addressed so that it can be provided to a lawyer and CPS, stating what happened that day as well as our fitness as parents. I am seriously considering involving the media here in Dallas, specifically NBC (Ch. 5 http://www.nbc5i.com) as they have a long history of taking the pain to the idiots. Would you guys recommend doing so?

  22. Tonguetied says:

    “If you didn’t abuse your child, you have nothing to worry about.”

    Yeah right. CPS can screw you to the wall if they get it in their minds to do so. I’ve heard way to many horror stories to think otherwise. It would be nice if you could trust them but while there are many fine social workers there are enough who are in it for the power to mess the system up.

  23. DeeJayQueue says:

    Maybe i don’t understand…
    if CPC calls and says they want to see the child and you say “sorry he’s got a dr’s appointment” what are they gonna do? come take the sparkplugs out of the car? I would have told CPC to suck a lemon, went to the real appointment and rescheduled their dinky interview.

  24. AppTechie says:

    While that would have been nice…we have to work still so we can pay the bills. And the wording used didn’t even approach non-obligatory…

  25. Lyn Never says:

    Why are you too good to be investigated by CPS? Many, many parents who take their awkward, just-walking, clumsy, squirrelly kids to the ER get investigated, because investigations are how you find abuse. There are people out there – even middle class people – who beat the crap out of their kids and then take them to the ER and say he fell down, or even better “I don’t know, he was with the sitter.” There are also sitters who do really horrible things, and the investigation has to start somewhere, like at your door where you could say “I don’t feel good about what happened with the sitter,” for example, if that was the case.

    I understand that you are horrified and embarrassed about being investigated, because who wouldn’t be, but you cannot go around getting lawyers and alerting the news media because you were supposed to be more special. North Texas CPS gets in a lot of trouble for not investigating reports, and even though you are super cool great dad guy, they don’t know that. The ER staff doesn’t know that. Investigations happen, they happen for a good reason, and they happen to a lot of completely innocent people, so you’re in good company.

    If you can prove that CPS told you to cancel the appointment because their clinic would handle the cast, you need to take that to CPS authorities, city authorities, and your inevitable lawyer. You probably didn’t think to record the call, though, and they’re not going to help you out on that. And when NBC5 hears the part of your story where your wife, who’s being investigated, took a kid with a freshly broken arm on a road trip, the producers are going to thank you for your time and offer you a t-shirt or coffee mug on your way out the door. It’s not going to fit in with the programming they’ve designed for their target advertising demographic.

    Probably you just need to take care of your son and move on.

  26. AppTechie says:

    While that is interesting Lyn…there are some other factors which I left out on purpose that I will give you now:

    1. A CPS investigation is part of your file for the rest of your life.

    2. Due to my brother’s Top Secret clearance, every time he has to renew it they will ask about this report against me. Not to mention that the FBI has a file on my entire family that is pretty damn thick to begin with due to his getting a Top Secret clearance in the first place. In that file, things such as abuse would have been noted.

    3. I have no problem with CPS investigating parents. I have a problem with the hospital calling CPS to cover their ass and CPS’ inability to take into account that there are more things going on in the world than their case.

    4. I already mentioned the letter his PCP is writing and his reaction when I told him about what is going on was utter shock.

    5. Since this happened, I have spoken with several parents that I know and each have complained about this hospital and the treatment of children and parents alike. Which, mind you, included my brother when he still lived here.

    As for the comment about taking my son on a road trip, we assessed his condition and found him in good spirits but in need of a “lightening of mood”. If I feel safe having my son go to Austin in my wife’s car, with her driving on a completely unblemished driving record, then that is my call as a parent.

  27. WV.Hillbilly says:

    Never cooperate with CPS. You are guilty until proven innocent in their eyes.
    Slam the door in their face and call your lawyer.
    Never talk to them without your attorney present.

  28. jwissick says:

    I second what HillBilly says. Never deal with CPS w/o a lawyer at your side. The stakes are too high to play with out one. In my area, should CPS take your kids, your FIRST court date is SIX MONTHS later. That’s your first chance to get justice. Tell CPS if they want to talk to you or your kids, to call your lawyer. Call your local BAR for a referal.

  29. Tankueray says:

    There are two issues here; the hospital and their misdiagnosis and lack of treatment are what you should go to Chanel 5 about. CPS is another issue. I work for an investigatory state agency (not CPS) and I can tell you that every year those assholes in Austin cut our budget and jobs. Agencies cannot do an adequate job with less money and less people. (They’ve even gone so far as to ration the amount of paper we’re allowed to order.) So what do agencies do? They go after the “low hanging fruit” to show successful investigations to justify their positions. All the while, the real bad actors get away with it because employees don’t get adequate training and don’t have the resources to go after them. I have friends that work at CPS, and I feel sorry for them. They start out really caring and trying to do a good job, but then they’re punished for that; there is an overwhelming “good enough for government work” attitude within all of the state agencies. Call the CPS worker’s supervisor and let them know that you feel that she gave you the wrong information and that you expect it to be addressed.

    Also use your upcoming opportunity to vote to voice your opinion about candidates that want to continue to cripple state agencies by “cutting the fat”. Believe me, we’re starving, all the fat is in Austin paying for them to fly all over the state for three times what a regular ticket costs or purchasing unsellable-to-the-public computers from Dell for twice the normal price instead of getting a better deal.

    Sorry, I’ve turned your rant into mine. I hope your son is okay and that you get this CPS investigation over with, if Channel 5 does a story on the hospital, make sure to post it on YouTube for the rest of us.

  30. AppTechie says:

    Thanks Tank, I will