NEW MILFORD — When Diane D’Amato read The News-Times’ story about a New Milford radiologist facing possible revocation of his license, she was certain the story concerned her husband’s death.
Tom D’Amato, who for years co-owned Slone Pharmacy in New Milford, died on April 29, 2010, three days after undergoing a medical procedure, a thoracentesis, at New Milford Hospital in which his spleen was perforated, medical examiners with the state Department of Public Health determined.
According to the National Institutes of Health website, the procedure involves a needle being placed through the skin and muscles of the chest wall into the space around the lungs. The fluid is collected and sent to a laboratory for testing.
Department documents refer to the patient only as a 74-year-old man and use the initials T.D. But Diane D’Amato recognized the details of her husband’s death when she read them, and she was chilled.
“Our doctor had told me an internal investigation would be conducted,” D’Amato said last week. “I assumed I would be advised of the findings. I wasn’t.
“When I saw the article in the paper, it knocked me out,” D’Amato said. “I knew a mistake had been made in the procedure.
“Friends told me at the time that I should sue,” she said. “But I’m not that kind of person, and neither was my husband.”
Dr. John Murphy, president and chief executive officer of Western Connecticut Health Care, the parent firm of New Milford Hospital, and Deborah Weymouth, senior vice president of operations and executive director of New Milford Hospital, were not available for comment.
In a written statement, Dr. Frederick Browne, chief medical officer and vice president of medical affairs at New Milford Hospital, said, “Quality and patient safety are our first priority, and we take these matters very seriously. This case was immediately and thoroughly investigated and all appropriate action was taken. Transparency is important to us. However, we are unable to speak about an individual case in a public forum.”
D’Amato has since hired an attorney, John Houlihan Jr., of RisCassi & Davis in Hartford, who she said is reviewing state Department of Public Health and New Milford Hospital documents before deciding how to proceed.
She said she wants to be assured significant action will be taken against Dr. Michael Waldman, the radiologist who performed the procedure on her husband.
Waldman, who works at Northeast Radiology, is still on the hospital’s medical staff, Browne said. Waldman is board certified in radiology and nuclear medicine and is also licensed in New York.
According to the Department of Public Health consent order documents, Waldman reached a settlement with DPH attorneys about the April 2010 incident: He would be placed on supervised probation for a year. Waldman did not admit to allegations of negligence in the incident but agreed not to contest the DPH investigator’s findings, according to the proposed consent order.
But on Aug. 16, the state Medical Examining Board rejected that settlement, wanting a stronger sanction.
A hearing into the case is possible if Waldman’s and DPH lawyers do not reach an agreement acceptable to the board, DPH spokeswoman Diana Lejardi said last month.
According to DPH documents, medical investigators learned that Waldman “immediately recognized that he had perforated the spleen” during a thoracentesis at New Milford Hospital but still sent “T.D.” home without telling him what had happened.
The patient returned to the hospital emergency room “six hours later with complaints of dyspnea and severe abdominal pain,” the investigative report states. Dyspnea is shortness of breath.
A CT scan dated April 27, 2010, revealed the patient was hemorrhaging, likely from the spleen, and he was transferred to Danbury Hospital, where he died on April 29, according to the investigative report.
“I was shocked to hear they were just going to give him (Waldman) probation,” Diane D’Amato said. “I would like to see him definitely lose his license. I don’t want him making that decision again with anybody else.”
Waldman’s attorney, Jack D. Garamella, sent a response to the allegations to the Department of Public Health on Dec. 14. It said Waldman believed he conducted the procedure and discharge correctly.
“The patient was completely asymptomatic when discharged,” Garamella wrote. “Dr. Waldman believed and continues to believe that there was no specific protocol with respect to the amount of time that an asymptomatic patient should be monitored … .”
According to the investigative report, Waldman left the room after performing the procedure, leaving the patient under observation by the Radiology Department nursing staff for an hour before D’Amato was discharged.
Waldman never returned to check on D’Amato before his release, the investigation found.
A call to Waldman at New Milford Hospital on Aug. 26 went to his voicemail.
The D’Amatos owned Slone Pharmacy in New Milford, buying it from Ben Slone in 1995 and selling it in 2004. They met while working at Slone in the early 1970s and married in 1978.
Contact Susan Tuz at email@example.com or 860-355-7322.