Vermont hospital wants its contractual ED operator, Dartmouth Hitchcock, to pay damages in patient malpractice lawsuit

Lawyers on behalf of Brattleboro (Vt.) Memorial Hospital asked a judge to compel the hospital's emergency department operator, Lebanon, N.H.-based Dartmouth-Hitchcock, to pay all potential fines and damages associated with a patient malpractice lawsuit filed in May, according to the Brattleboro Reformer.

Former BMH patient Cynthia Hawthorne filed a lawsuit against the hospital in May, alleging BMH and the hospital's ED director failed to notify her about a "highly suspicious mass on her left kidney," which was later discovered to be cancerous. Ms. Hawthorne claimed ED specialists at the hospital identified the mass during a CT scan at the hospital in March 2014, the complaint states. However, BMH allegedly did not notify Ms. Hawthorne of the mass for two and a half years. By then, the cancer had spread to her lungs and necessitated the removal of her left kidney, the complaint states.

Lawyers on behalf of BMH filed "a third-party complaint against Dartmouth-Hitchcock Clinic that asserts a claim for indemnification" earlier this month. The complaint alleged Dartmouth-Hitchcock should be held responsible for any damages and court fees associated with Ms. Hawthorne's malpractice case based on a 2012 agreement allowing Dartmouth-Hitchcock to operate BMH's ED, the report states.

The institutions' 2012 agreement designated Dartmouth-Hitchcock Clinic the "exclusive provider of physicians and providers to operate BMH's emergency room" and declared Dartmouth-Hitchcock Clinic would assume "any liability incurred by [BMH] as a result of … [DHC's] physicians and providers, agents or employees," the report states.

A judge has not yet issued a ruling on Ms. Hawthorne's case, so it is unclear if BMH or Dartmouth-Hitchcock will be required to pay any damages associated with the case.

However, the Vermont Agency of Human Services' Division of Licensing and Protection issued findings related to the incident in March. The agency cited BMH for failing to notify Ms. Hawthorne and for failing to thoroughly investigate the incident, the report states.

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