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Hospital to pay $1.1 million in heart treatment case

by Tom Kertscher
of the Journal Sentinel staff

St. Michael Hospital has agreed to pay $1.1 million to settle a lawsuit filed by a Milwaukee woman who alleged that lack of care forced her to get a heart transplant.
The woman's lawyer, Mark Thomsen of Brookfield, said the hospital relied on a resident doctor when a specialist should have been on duty.

"Despite the denials, the payment of $1.1 million by St. Michael and its insurers reflects that St. Michael ultimately conceded that it was responsible for the lack of care provided," he said.

The hospital's lawyer, Lori Gendelman of Milwaukee, would not comment, but the hospital did not admit any liability in settling the case.

Under the law, hospitals can be held responsible for their own actions, such as staffing levels, as well as the actions of doctors or other staff.

Halina Zurad, 51, of the 3400 block of N. Dousman St., was a patient at St. Michael on May 27, 1997. A cardiac catheterization was performed, and when a second one was needed, there was a delay of about three hours because a specialist was not available, according to Thomsen.

"She's essentially dying in the room, and the resident doesn't know what to do," he said.

The delay, Thomsen said, damaged Zurad's heart so much that a heart transplant had to be performed. Zurad, a clerk at Boston Store in Glendale, has not returned to work and suffers from lethargy and other problems, he said.

Zurad filed a lawsuit in May 2000 in Milwaukee County Circuit Court. She reached the settlement, to be paid from insurance, last week, Thomsen said.

The information is based on published and publicly available information. Results depend on the facts of each case.