Hospital ad supports doc in malpractice case

Doctors accused of malpractice may find it a lonely ordeal as their colleagues avoid any association with the case, but one Maine hospital decided to publicly support a cardiologist on trial after the death of a patient. The hospital placed an ad in a local newspaper supporting the doctor, an unusual step that hospitals leaders say was intended to show they had faith in the physician.

York Hospital placed a 3-inch by 8-inch ad in seven local weekly and daily newspapers proclaiming "We Support Alan Hymanson, MD." A York County jury recently found the hospital and emergency department staff not negligent in the death of a patient who was prescribed a clot-busting medication for a brain hemorrhage.

The jury found Hymanson negligent, however, and awarded the plaintiffs $1.6 million. Dawn Fernald, spokeswoman for the hospital, says the ad was a response to media coverage that hospital leaders felt portrayed Hymanson and the hospital unfairly. "We felt we had to support this physician in our community," she says. "We’re a small community, and information in the media can really affect a physician’s practice. He did everything right and there was just an unfortunate outcome, so we had to stand up for this physician."

York Hospital’s ads stated that it "stands behind the clinical decisions made by Alan Hymanson, MD, and the York Hospital Emergency Center staff" in the case. Noting that the jury ruled against Hymanson, the ad said, "We disagree with their judgment."

"While our thoughts have been with the Healy family throughout this process, we know that Dr. Hymanson followed proper medical procedure in treating Mrs. Healy and was not in any way negligent," the ad said. "Dr. Hymanson is an experienced cardiologist with Seacoast Cardiology Associates who has provided exceptional care for our patients over the last 20 years and will continue to do so. Just like the State’s Medical Malpractice Screening Panel, who met earlier in the process and found unanimously that the treatment provided by York Hospital and Dr. Hymanson was proper in this case, we feel the same."

The ad went on to extol the quality care provided by the hospital and the cardiology group, concluding with a statement that "We are honored to have this skillful and experienced group of physicians, including Dr. Hymanson, taking care of heart patients at York Hospital and in the communities we serve."

Fernald says the hospital administration received very positive feedback from the medical staff and community after the ads ran. The ads cost roughly $200 per newspaper, so the hospital spent about $1,400, she adds.