Children's Wisconsin physicians say execs knew of issues with child abuse team

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After a news investigation claimed a Milwaukee hospital's child abuse diagnosis process was problematic, physicians criticized hospital administrators and claimed leadership had been previously aware of such issues, NBC News reports.

An NBC News article published Jan. 28 wrote of John Cox, MD, a former physician at Milwaukee-based Children's Wisconsin, who lost custody of his daughter after a child abuse team at his own hospital said in May 2019 that she was abused, despite contradicting evidence from 15 other experts.

A Children's Wisconsin spokesperson said the hospital will consult outside experts in a review of the process used by child abuse specialists, according to a statement cited by NBC News, though three physicians told the publication, under the condition of anonymity, that they worry the investigation won't be truly independent. 

"Every step of the way, it feels like they are just working to minimize corporate liability," one physician said.

Though hospital President and COO Scott Turner and Executive Vice President Bob Duncan asked staff members in an email this week to help in the review process, documents reviewed by NBC News reveal that executives were aware of the alleged mistakes in Dr. Cox's case more than six months ago. At the time, calls for an external investigation were denied.

Dr. Cox and his wife told hospital executives in June about a nurse practitioner who didn't consult a dermatologist and confused the baby's birthmarks for bruises, shared reports proving a child abuse pediatrician misinterpreted a test result, and pointed out a policy violation when the NP refused to speak with them before drawing conclusions.

Leslie Tector, the hospital's vice president and general counsel, wrote to Dr. Cox's attorney Aug. 30, "Based on the information provided to date, [we] do not believe an external review would yield any new or pertinent information."

Other physicians told NBC News that they also alerted leaders about concerns regarding the child abuse team in recent months.   

Child Protective Services hired a Minnesota child abuse pediatrician who agreed with the initial assessment of abuse. Dr. Cox was charged with felony child abuse, a case his attorney has filed to dismiss.   

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