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According to a New York Daily News investigation, medical staffers at city-run hospitals are going to great lengths to cover up medical mistakes, including falsifying hospital records. Specifically, the Daily News investigated several hospitals in the NYC area and uncovered a host of horrifying medical incidents—patients who died waiting in emergency waiting rooms for 24 hours, patients with limbs that needed to be amputated because other conditions went untreated, and medical errors that caused patients’ deaths or suicides—none of which were appropriately reported in medical records or worse, weren’t reported at all.

At each of the three hospitals, the Daily News found that doctors, nurses, and medical staff made false entries in hospital entries to cover up medical errors. Furthermore, records also lacked crucial data and or were missing completely, making a thorough investigation impossible. Medical staff also claimed they “couldn’t find” data when investigators asked to view certain records. In fact, according to a Daily News review of 100 pages of internal hospital documents, the state of New York issued 70 citations between 2004-2008 to hospitals that violated regulations that demand immediate reporting of “adverse events”. Each hospital that the Daily News investigated—Kings County, Lincoln, Harlem, Coney Island, Bellevue, Queens, Woodhull, Jacobi, Elmhurst, Metropolitan and North Central Bronx—was cited at least once.

Millions of New Yorkers who can’t afford private health care have no choice but to seek treatment at one of the city’s 11 public hospitals run by the Health and Hospitals Corporation. The HHC happens to be the busiest municipal health system in the country, and despite the large number of violations for HHC hospitals—517 in a four-year period—HHC officials claim that under-reporting is not a big problem considering the volume of patients they see on a regular basis. In fact, in response to the Daily News’ written questions on underreporting, HHC officials wrote that the number of citations they received represented less than 1% of the total number of medical cases they treated in the four year period. Nevertheless, the penalties for under-reporting aren’t high, with the city only bringing 12 enforcement actions against the network of hospitals during those four years.

Recently, the case that has received the most national attention is that of Esmin Green, a 49-year-old woman who died on the floor of a Brooklyn psychiatric emergency room. The HHC attempted to cover up the incident, stating in her medical records that Green was “fine”, until a video surfaced that showed Green lying on the floor of the emergency room. The HHC has since paid $2 million to settle a lawsuit brought by Green’s family. However, the Green cover up was obviously part of a larger pattern, as the Daily News found in their investigation.

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