Wilkes-Barre General Hospital is the target of a wrongful death lawsuit alleging it altered medical records to conceal misconduct that led to the death of a 44-year-old father of three.
The suit asserts that the hospital and its staff engaged in an “unprecedented pattern of neglect, fraud, concealment and other misconduct consistent with evil motives and reckless indifference to the rights” of the victim, Joseph M. Corey, who died Aug. 11, 2013.
Corey, of Harveys Lake, was also serving as the vice president and administrator of United Methodist Homes in Tunkhannock.
“Joe Corey would be alive today if it were not for the absolutely abysmal, incompetent treatment he received at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital,” Corey’s widow Lesley Anne Corey said in a statement. “It is unthinkable, but now well documented, that staff there failed to enter in reports, and share with his skilled medical team at Hershey Medical Center, vital information — including that my husband at one point had no pulse, or the sequence of multiple heart attacks while in the ‘care’ of WBGH. Our family and every citizen of Pennsylvania deserves to know exactly what happened and why, and hold those responsible fully accountable.”
The lawsuit, filed by Doylestown-based attorney Joseph A. McGinley, names Wilkes-Barre General Hospital as well as Dr. J. Charles Lentini, Director of Health Information Management Linda Makowski and Chief Compliance and Privacy Officer Cherry Clavette.
Hospital spokeswoman Renita Fennick said Commonwealth Health does not comment on pending litigation.
He was the son of the late Dr. Peter Corey, who once was the hospital’s chief of surgery.
Joseph Corey sustained a shoulder injury in 2009. The suit alleges that as a result of complications Lentini, who had been his primary doctor since 1994, began prescribing him Suboxone each month — demanding a $100 payment for each refill although Joseph Corey had insurance.
Lentini also failed to recommend Joseph Corey get a pneumococcal vaccine, even though he had risk factors cited by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the complaint says. The suit alleges the failure was a “breach of the standard of care and a contributing factor to Mr. Corey’s death.”
On Aug. 8, 2013, with his family out of town visiting relatives, Joseph Corey called Lentini to report difficulty breathing. He was told to come in the next day, according to the suit.
About 3 a.m. Aug. 9, 2013, Joseph Corey called 911 and was rushed to Wilkes-Barre General Hospital, where he was listed in critical condition, the lawsuit says.
Lesley Corey rushed to the hospital to find her husband’s co-workers present. The suit alleges the hospital broke federal privacy laws by discussing his condition with them.
Lesley Corey had her husband airlifted to Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, but the hospital here only faxed over 18 pages of records, according to the complaint.
Joseph Corey died in Hershey two days later despite the “extraordinary efforts” of the staff there, the suit says.
Lesley Corey and her attorney repeatedly tried to get access to her husband’s complete record to find out what happened.
Wilkes-Barre General Hospital allegedly produced “no less than six different sets of medical records,” each of which purportedly contained Corey’s full history, according to a press release sent out by Steph Rosenfeld of Identity Advisors.
During the plaintiff’s investigation, Louis Cinquanto, a digital forensic examiner, reviewed the records and “noted many inconsistencies and contradictions which make it impossible to determine exactly what course of treatment was provided to Mr. Corey,” according to the complaint.
The records show evidence of neglect and deviation from the standard of care — including a statement that Joseph Corey was “found” without a pulse, showing staff was not properly monitoring him — but the conflicting reports have left the family struggling to understand what happened and why, according to the complaint.
“All I have ever wanted was the truth,” Lesley Corey said in her statement.
“For a very long time my family was misled about the facts surrounding Joe’s medical care — and the clear neglect by his attending doctors and nurses — on August 9, 2013. We will not rest until all facts — the whole truth — are ultimately disclosed.”