Monday, June 06, 2005

Deborah Byrd Chrysostomides: One Year Later

Last August, I wrote an article about the death of Deborah Byrd Chrysostomides, a Chesapeake General nurse, from an undiagnosed tuberculosis infection. As I said then, "although I hate to say "I told you so," OSHA's decision last year to withdraw the tuberculosis standard is looking dumber and dumber as the number of TB cases in many states creep up."

I also cited a Virginia Pilot article that asked a few pressing questions:
Questions linger about her case and whether more could have been done to prevent it –certainly, from the more than 100 patients and visitors who have since tested positive for TB, and also from those closest to her.

Tim Peluso, the fiance of the once-vibrant and compassionate nurse, questions whether the hospital could have done more to detect her illness when she displayed TB symptoms. Hospital and public-health officials wonder whether Chrysostomides ever sought medical help, as she claimed to friends and a supervisor. If so, why didn’t a doctor diagnose her sooner?

And why can’t public-health officials find the doctor who supposedly treated her?

Two questions that loom largest for the general public: How could her illness have gone undetected in a hospital, of all places, and should anything be changed to keep such cases from occurring again?
Today I received the letter from Debbie's friend:
Thank you for asking the questions that Debbie's friends are still wondering one year after her death. I can't understand why Chesapeake General Hospital did not follow procedures and save the life of their devoted nurse and our beautiful friend. In a few days, it will be one year since her terrible death and I feel that Chesapeake General didn't do anything to save her life. I, along with others, lodged a complaint with the Virginia Health Dept. The Virginia Dept of Health did cite Chesapeake General with violations. Changes in hospital policies are to take affect.

The reason that Debbie's illness was not addressed, according to Chesapeake General, was due to the fact that their person in charge of monitoring the nurses and reporting cases of possitive TB from the annual testing of nurses was on leave in Dec 2003. Meaning, the two positive tb conversions in Dec were overlooked. When this person returned from leave no one had reported the unusual number of positive TB cases. And even after another positive Tb result of a nurse in Feb and a couple more in March nothing was done. They said they didn't have enough information.

In April 2004 Debbie could not work any longer because she was so terribly ill and decided to resign. In May 2004, one month before Debbie's death, the hospital claimed that they were getting ready to report the cases to the health dept but had not yet done this. Even in June 2004 the month when Debbie died, the hospital had not yet reported the TB problem. They reported them after Debbie had died. My friend's life could have been saved if the hospital reported their nurses positive Tb test.

In the past I had been told that most hospitals don't care if their nurses are sick. They just want them at work. I was told that they work their nurses to death. It turns out to be true.

Debbie's Loving Friend,

Anything to add, John Henshaw, Roger Wicker, George W. Bush?