THE HEALTH Ministry is demanding the dismissal of the head of the newborn clinic at Nitra Hospital Alena Ďurišová after allegations that she altered the medical record of a baby in the Nitra Hospital in an attempt to hide mistakes.
In March 2013, Michal, a premature baby, was born with pneumonia, according to the Sme daily. Personnel from Nitra Hospital treated Michal with what might have been excessive doses of Gentamicin, an antibiotic. After experiencing acute renal failure, the boy was transferred to the Children’s Faculty Hospital in Bratislava, where the staff noted suspicions of excessive Gentamicin in Michal’s medical record.
Later, during a second hospitalisation in Nitra, a doctor signed off on the notations from the Children’s Faculty Hospital. Sometime after this, the notations about Gentamicin disappeared, and it is alleged that Ďurišová erased them from the record, which would be a crime. Prosecutors are now investigating possible assault and forgery of administrative document charges.
“I did not make a mistake; I did not violate any law,” Ďurišová said, as quoted by the TASR newswire, on October 24. She declined to comment further.
Paediatrician Zuzana Pechočiaková alerted Jozef Valocký, the Nitra Hospital director, of suspicions that Michal’s records had been altered. She was punished for doing so and Valocký instead defended Ďurišová, according to Slovak Medical Chamber (SLK) head Marian Kollár, TASR reported.
“I did nothing wrong. I have just pointed out that an unknown person redacted the patient’s medical record, I have not specified anybody,” Pechočiaková told the press on October 26, as quoted by the SITA newswire. “They took my patients [from me], I do not visit my department and they moved me to the admission office.”
Pechočiaková was transferred from the in-patient department to the patient admission office. The hospital forced the move by changing the locks on her office door and cutting her salary bonuses without explanation, according to the Medical Trade Unions Association (LOZ).
Pechočiaková is still forbidden to work at her previous position, Peter Visolajský, head of the LOZ and Pechočiaková’s colleague, told The Slovak Spectator.
Hospital director offers a defence
For his part, Valocký denied Pechočiaková had even had her job changed. He approved what he said was a correction to the baby’s file by Ďurišová, but told SITA that “information in the file was not wiped out since they are in the admission report from May 10”. A doctor at Nitra Hospital wrongly interpreted a previous diagnosis of Bratislava Children’s Faculty Hospital, he said, and it is Ďurišová’s job to check the correctness of patients’ files.
However, Valocký was lying when he said on October 22 that information in the patient’s file was not wiped clean, but merely corrected, according to Sme. Citing medical records that the paper received from Michal’s parents, there was no notation about potential excessive amounts of Gentamicin.
Thus far, Valocký has not responded to questions about his alleged lying. He has not responded to requests for comment from The Slovak Spectator. However, on October 30 he told SITA that Ďurišová had lied to him, and thus his early defence of her was misguided.
After investigating documents received from Valocký, the Health Ministry commission concluded that Ďurišová violated the law, Zuzana Čižmáriková, a spokesperson for the Health Ministry, told The Slovak Spectator.
However, only the head of Faculty of Social Sciences and Health Care of Constantine the Philosopher University in Nitra can lay off Ďurišová, she added.
In the meantime, Valocký who is also an MP for the ruling Smer party, has demoted her from the post of his deputy, though she continues as a rank-and-file doctor.
Demands for Valocký’s dismissal
But many are accusing the Health Ministry of initially helping to cover up the incident, before more recently changing course.
“The Health Ministry should apologise to the doctor [Pechočiaková] who pointed out the case because the ministry stated that it does not believe her,” Visolajský said. “At the same time, [Nitra] hospital management should publicly apologise to her.”