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August 19, 2011

Fletcher Allen Admits "Errors Were Made" in Case of Pedestrian Who Died After Being Released

StamatisFletcher Allen Health Care admitted today that it made "errors in the care" of 20-year-old Zachary Stamatis, the accident victim who died in July after being treated and released from the hospital.

Stamatis (pictured) had been hit by a car while in his wheelchair crossing Pine Street at the intersection of Flynn Avenue — near his home. He was rushed to the hospital that night, treated and released a few hours later.

Stamatis was found dead the following morning by a caregiver. According to an autopsy conducted by the state medical examiner, Stamatis died as a result of a brain injury due to a skull fracture he sustained from the crash.

Immediately following news of Stamatis' death, FAHC officials said they would conduct an internal investigation into Stamatis' care to determine what, if anything, went awry.

Apparently the hospital did make mistakes, but officials aren't saying exactly what went wrong.

"All I can say is that we did make errors in his care and have made changes to ensure that this will not happen again," FAHC Spokesman Mike Noble told Seven Days. "We did talk to his family and apologized for what happened. Clearly, everybody involved is saddened by what occurred."

Noble wouldn't specify what errors were made or whether any staff members were disciplined.

"We don't have an agreement with the family to say anything else," Noble said.

Stamatis' friends and families weren't immediately available for comment today.

The bulk of the internal review was completed "expeditiously" Noble added, but it did take some time to complete the internal review process and meet with the family.

Speed and alcohol were not ruled to be a factor in the accident, according to police reports. The initial investigation found driver Jeffrey Shedd, of Shelburne, was following the rules of the road when the accident occurred.

" did take some time to complete the internal review process and meet with the family." And, presumably, arrange a quick settlement including a non-disclosure agreement. That's what FAHC and UVM usually do when there's a screwup. (Such as the 2007 incident in which a psychiatric patient committed suicide. That resulted in an unspecified settlement with the family and a nondisclosure agreement.)

So we'll probably never know what happened, or if any staffers were disciplined.

What took the BFP until today to report this?

Tragic but not suprising to those of us who have disabilties and have used and relied on the Vermont health care and hospital systems. Whether neglect, indifference, incompetence or medical error the root of this, I beleve, comes from the fact that healthcare professionals have been taught that a disability is a medical problem that cannot be solved consequently they give up and provide less than standard care. If you add that to the abysmal lack of knowledge and awareness about disabilites in the local medical establishment, then you have the recipe for tragedy that lead to Zach's death.

Going to the hospital should require an advocate to watch over the proceedings and make sure things are done properly. Sometimes in the rush, people are overlooked. Try to be with the ones you love when they have to have medical help and do not be afraid to ask questions.

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