Archive for July 16th, 2012

Route 4 Bridgewater Accident

We hear from several Woodstock Early Birds and Vermont State Police that a car accident over the weekend ended with the vehicle hitting a house along Route 4 in West Bridgewater.

Ambulance Director Pat Cassidy confirms that a rescue crew did respond to an accident Sunday afternoon but would provide no further details about the case, citing federal privacy regulations. She also explained that as a local policy her department does not give out any information about accidents including about whether anyone was transported. 

For the record, we searched the information release policy for Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center whose Head of Emergency Department , in most cases, provides medical direction and oversight to Woodstock Ambulance EMT’s and Paramedics. We think that, at the least, Woodstock Early Bird citizens should be able to learn a) the number of people transported by our rescue squad and b) following American Hospital Association guidelines generic descriptions such as those listed below for condition of transported patients.

Over the years, since the establishment of HIPAA, various agencies use the federal privacy law as a general brush-off to providing ANY information to the public.

In the past, when Woodstock Early Bird reported for The Vermont Standard and when there were different ambulance directors, the basic information from accidents (Simply the number of people transported and their one-word condition) was provided routinely — without compromising the medical privacy of an individual.  We understand these are different times, with different people in charge. However, when the public is aware of an incident, it is really best to provide them with immediate information since they may have witnessed a crash or situation and having lingering concerns.

Woodstock Early Bird maintains that the best way to squash potentially harmful rumor and subsequent poor public relations is to provide the simple facts from the get-go.

We do not believe, nor does the AHA, nor does DHMC,  that the descriptions below violate patient privacy rights — especially since the press would NOT be asking for nor printing the names or ages of patients in the first place:

Patient Condition Reports

 In accordance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (“HIPAA”), with New Hampshire state law, and with Dartmouth-Hitchcock policy, our patients’ privacy is respected and protected at all times.

Requests for information about patient conditions must include the full name of the patient; age and hometown, if available, are also helpful in locating the patient within our system.

If the patient, or parent or guardian (in the case of a minor) allows directory information to be released, the patient’s condition will be described in one of four, one-word reports, as outlined by the American Hospital Association:

  • Good/satisfactory – Vital signs are stable and within normal limits. Patient is conscious and comfortable. Indicators are excellent.
  • Fair – Vital signs are stable and within normal limits. Patient is conscious, but may be uncomfortable. Indicators are favorable.
  • Serious – Vital signs may be unstable and not within normal limits. Patient is acutely ill. Indicators are questionable.
  • Critical – Vital signs are unstable and not within normal limits. Patient may be unconscious. Indicators are unfavorable.

In addition, a report of “still being evaluated” means that the patient is awaiting a physician and/or assessment.

In this case, Vermont State Police tell us that Windsor County Sheriff’s Department was the official law enforcement responder and they are handling the case. They are, in fact, as Cassidy rightly points out, usually the agency tasked with reporting to media on accidents and incidents.

Here is the release from the Windsor County Sheriff:

On Sunday, July 15, 2O12, at approximately 12:50, the Windsor County Sheriff’s Department responded to a motor vehicle crash at 4569 Rt. 4 in Bridgewater.
Upon arrival it was discovered that a pickup truck had gone off the Westbound side of Rt. 4 and struck the residence at that location. The vehicle was totaled and the house received minimal damage.

The operator and sole passenger in the pickup truck, Dennis Place, of Ballston Spa, N.Y. Was transported to Rutland Regional Medical Center. Place was treated for shoulder injuries and later released.

Place was cited to appear in Vermont District Court, on August 7, 2012, to answer the charges of Driving While Intoxicated and Gross Negligent Operation.

The incident is still under investigation by the Sheriff’s Department.