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Nine-Day Wait for Kaiser Heart Attack Treatment, Man Claims

FAIRFIELD, Calif. (CN) - A man claims in a lawsuit that he went to a Kaiser emergency room that could not do an angioplasty; it sent him to one a half hour away that could not do a bypass; then he had to wait nine days to get into the San Francisco facility that could treat him, all making him severely disabled and debilitated.

Joseph Dipaola sued Kaiser Foundation Hospitals, The Permanente Medical Group, Inc., Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc. and Kaiser Permanente Insurance Company in Solano County Superior Court. He alleges professional negligence, negligence per se, breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing, HMO negligence, unlawful and unfair business acts and practices, health and safety code violations and violations of various statutes and regulations.

According to Dipaola's complaint, he arrived at Kaiser's Vacaville Medical Center, March 16, 2014, ten minutes after the onset of what he correctly identified as heart attack symptoms: "chest pain and heaviness, pain radiating into his left shoulder and neck, sweating, etc."

Dipaola had chosen to travel by car believing he would receive faster treatment than if he called paramedics, he says. Signs at the hospital directed him to the emergency room, but did not specify that the Vacaville emergency room provided "basic" care and not "comprehensive" care of the specialized kind he needed for his heart attack, Dipaola claims.

Vacaville emergency room staff diagnosed Dipaola's heart attack and told him he would need to be transferred to another Kaiser facility where cardiac catheterization, angioplasty and stenting would be available, according to the complaint.

Dipaola contends the standard of care requires heart attack patients to receive angioplasty within 90 minutes of arriving at the hospital, but he did not receive it within that timeframe.

"Because Kaiser Vacaville Medical Center's emergency department had no onsite access to a cardiac catheterization lab or interventional cardiologists, Kaiser knew and intended that it would not perform angioplasty or bypass surgery in a timely manner for those patients suffering from a heart attack who needed such care and treatments, since such patients would necessarily be required to be transported, at great distances to other facilities by ambulance," the complaint states.

Dipaola was transferred to Kaiser's Vallejo facility 28 miles away, but by that time it had been more than 90 minutes, the complaint says. Attempts to unblock one of his blocked arteries were unsuccessful, it continues.

"The physicians at Kaiser Vallejo Medical Center determined that Dipaola required coronary bypass surgery, but they could not provide such surgery, lacking the facilities, expertise and support to perform such surgery at Kaiser Vallejo Medical Center. Although Dipaola should have been transferred emergently to Kaiser San Francisco Center for treatment, including possible coronary bypass surgery, Kaiser San Francisco Medical Center could not immediately accommodate the transfer, since its facilities were full, it lacked sufficient medical personnel to perform surgery and it otherwise was incapable of accepting Dipaola for transfer on an emergent basis," the complaint states.

So Dipaola waited at the Vallejo facility for six days, according to the complaint.

After his transfer to Kaiser San Francisco, he waited another three days for the cardiac catheterization lab to have space in its schedule for him, according to the complaint.

Successful angioplasty followed, and three stents were inserted into Dipaola's heart arteries, it continues.

"Despite this treatment, however, as a result of the delays, negligence and substandard care offered him by defendants, Dipaola suffered permanent and irreversible heart damage and is now severely disabled and debilitated," it states.

Joseph Dipaola seeks general, special, compensatory and punitive damages, past and future medical expenses, loss of earnings, earning capacity and benefits, prejudgment interest, costs of suit, attorneys' fees, injunctive relief and a jury trial. He is represented by Gary L. Tysch in Encino.

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