Missouri hospital chain sorry for botched surgery


Associated Press

ST. LOUIS (AP) - A suburban St. Louis-based health care company has apologized while acknowledging that a neurosurgeon operated on the wrong side of a patient's brain.

SSM Health Care's apology on Tuesday followed a lawsuit filed Friday on behalf of Regina Turner, 53, of the St. Louis County town of St. Ann. She went to SSM St. Clare Health Center in Fenton for a left-sided craniotomy bypass. Her attorney, Alvin Wolff Jr., said the surgery was necessary to reduce her risk of stroke, which was high.

The surgeon operated on the right side of her skull and brain instead of the left. Wolff said the botched surgery left Turner, a former paralegal, with potentially lifelong medical problems.

"She speaks very garbled and she is wheelchair-bound," Wolff said, and it wasn't clear if she would ever get better.

"There's always hope and prayer," Wolff said.

SSM president and CEO Chris Howard apologized in a written statement and said SSM is "devastated" by the mistake.

"This was a breakdown in our procedures, and it absolutely should not have happened," Howard said. "We apologized to the patient and continue to work with the patient and family to resolve this issue with fairness and compassion."

Howard said an internal investigation was initiated and steps have been taken to make sure a similar error doesn't happen again.

"Our St. Clare team is made up of dedicated health care professionals who are devastated," Howard said. "We can and will do better. That is our commitment to the community."

Turner's surgery was on April 4. As a result of the mistake she suffered a stroke and has severe pain, the lawsuit said

"Before the incorrect surgery, Plaintiff was mobile, cognizant and able to care for herself," the lawsuit stated. "After the incorrect surgery, Plaintiff requires around the clock care for her basic needs."

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages, saying Turner will incur medical costs into the future. It said that in addition to the physical problems she now suffers from anxiety, disfigurement and depression as a result of the error.

Neither the lawsuit nor the hospital statement identified the neurosurgeon responsible for the mistake. Messages seeking comment from an SSM spokesman were not returned.

SSM, based in Creve Coeur, Mo., operates 18 hospitals in Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin and Oklahoma.