Doctor Warns of Substandard Care for Children at Coney Island Hospital

Public Health Watchdog Breaking News
Public Health Watchdog Breaking News

In a conversation with a New York Post reporter, a pediatrician who spent three years as a resident at Coney Island Hospital described frightening patient care in the 371-bed facility. The doctor witnessed chronic negligence, unqualified care and poor supervision at the city-run institution, particularly in the treatment of children.

“Kids were treated willy-nilly every day. It didn’t matter if they came in for a splinter or anaphylactic shock, the staff would throw every possible drug and antibiotic at the child — rather than use evidence-based medicine and take the time to come up with a real diagnosis,” the doctor is quoted in the Post.

The physician described an incident when a father ran into the pediatric clinic holding his son, who was limp and almost gray. The child’s pulse was frighteningly slow and he was not breathing. The father was Middle Eastern and could not explain to the resident what was wrong and there was no translator. The 5-year-old boy had no obvious injuries. After a few moments, the boy’s pulse stopped.

The resident immediately started CPR immediately and ordered the nurses to get an IV and adrenaline from the crash cart. The nurses had no idea where to find what was needed and the supervising doctor was not around. The nurses finally brought the cart, and the resident searched for the adrenaline while the child lay clinically dead for several minutes. When the attending doctor finally showed up, that doctor offered no advice. The resident was able to get the child’s heart started again but the doctor told the Post that because of the loss of oxygen to his brain, the odds are that the boy may be severely brain damaged.

The doctor says the facility was chronically understaffed and most of the nurses were pulled from other departments. They did not know how to find a vein in a child’s arm for an IV, or how to perform CPR on a tiny infant. Gashes from that should have received stitches were often glued or taped shut. This would lead to scabs and wounds that sometimes ripped open when the tape was removed, causing greater scarring.

In addition to staff not being adequately trained for the specialized departments where they were assigned, the hospital was plagued by a poor work ethic, the pediatrician told the Post. Staff members would leave to get food or take naps and attending physicians did not provide leadership. Many doctors were not up to date on current medical guidelines.

The Post notes other allegations of botched care, including the case of an 84-year-old patient who died in 2013 after a transfusion with the wrong type of blood. A man who says surgeons operated on the wrong spinal disc in 2014 is bringing a lawsuit against the hospital. The city’s Health and Hospitals Corporation paid a $5 million settlement to the family of a baby born with a brain injury after the hospital failed to diagnose a condition in which fluid builds up in the fetus.

Consumer Reports magazine gave Coney Island Hospital a patient safety score of 37 out of 100 in 2015—a score near the bottom of rankings for hospitals in New York state. The score measures factors such as infections and readmissions. The state Health Department reports that the patient satisfaction score at Coney Island is 63 percent, also near the bottom of all hospitals.