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Long Islanders Put on Play About Patient Safety and Medical Error

Behind the scenes are residents from Plainview, Glen Cove and Wantagh; discussions with medical experts follow.

“Lady From Limerick” is a play based on the story of Kathleen Cregan who traveled from Ireland to New York for plastic surgery, focuses on a patient’s tragedy. Credit: Bob Giglione
“Lady From Limerick” is a play based on the story of Kathleen Cregan who traveled from Ireland to New York for plastic surgery, focuses on a patient’s tragedy. Credit: Bob Giglione
Claude Solnik, a Plainview resident, has written a new play, “Lady From Limerick,” which will presented April 10-20 at the Theater for the New City, 155 First Ave., in Manhattan.

Solnik, a business journalist, recently premiered another play, “Victoria Woodhull: The Rise and Fall of America’s First Feminist,” at the Playhouse at St. Paul’s in Northport. 

His latest drama examines the human cost when things go wrong in the nation's healthcare system. The play comes at a time when the nation is focusing on the cost of healthcare and the Affordable Care Act, and is presented by
the Theater for the New City and PULSE of NY, a Wantagh-based patient advocacy group founded by Ilene Corina.

Experts, advocates, survivors of medical error and their family members will discuss issues April 10 during a press conference before the opening of the play – and following various performances.

“Lady From Limerick,” based on the story of Kathleen Cregan who traveled from Ireland to New York for plastic surgery, focuses on a patient’s tragedy.

Cregan died as a result of the surgery performed by a doctor who, unbeknownst to her, had a long record of litigation. She was removed from life support on St. Patrick’s Day, 2005.

Corina, who is co-producing the play with Theater for the New City and organizing discussions, founded PULSE of NY after losing her son due to bleeding from what was supposed to be routine surgery.

She then lobbied for more access to information about physicians, finally standing beside Gov. George Pataki on October 6, 2000 and speaking at the bill signing for the New York State Health Information and Quality Improvement Act of 2000.

Corina later realized that simply making information public is a first step: Patients and their families need to be proactive, gathering information and being partners not observers of care.

“We can’t leave the patient’s voice out of all of this. This is bringing healthcare back to where it belongs,” Corina said. “Patient education, patient knowledge and family involvement are all important.”

Corina co-produced the play with Michael DeLuise, a Glen Cove resident and the president of the Melville Chamber of Commerce, who handled publicity for Broadway shows such as “Hair” and “42nd St.” and lost much of his vision in cataract surgery.

“The play gives a patient a voice,” Corina said. “It’s a voice from the grave, but it still gives a voice. We have to remember that the patient needs to be at the center of the discussion. This brings us back to the importance of healthcare. It’s about the patient.”

A recent study brought the numbers of medical error deaths to over 400,000 a year, higher than the 1999 Institute of Medicine report that concluded as many as 98,000 people die annually of preventable medical error in hospitals at a cost of $29 billion. That would make medical error the third most prevalent cause of death.

The Institute for Healthcare Improvement estimates there are 15 million incidents of medical harm each year

“Where do we fit as patients to make sure injuries don’t happen?” Corina asked. “Part of it is education. It’s like teaching the patient about diabetes or breast cancer. Why aren’t we talking about safety? We need to put safety and quality of care on the table as part of the discussion.”

Solnik wrote “Lady From Limerick” after reading an article in The New York Times about Cregan that, he said, told one person’s story about an all too common tragedy.

“I couldn’t forget what happened and I realized that most people would focus on other news after they finished reading the article,” Solnik, a journalist who covers healthcare for Long Island Business News, said. “I wrote a play, because I was moved and because I wanted to try to prevent her tragedy from being forgotten.”

The American Medical Association’s code of medical ethics as of 2012 calls for the physician and patient to be bound in a partnership in which both play roles in the healing process. Yet this culture shift is only slowly happening.

Corina said it’s important to discuss what can and does go wrong, since it’s often dealt with quietly as a result of gag orders included in legal settlements.

“Every patient counts,” said Corina, whose group launched a campaign called “One is a Number” seeking to stamp out medical error as much as possible. “Every patient’s important.”

Others said it’s important to be aware of the risks of surgery – and not to simply assent to operations based on suggestions. An eye surgeon operated on both of DeLuise’s eyes in one session.

“The Hippocratic oath is to first do no harm,” said DeLuise, one of the play’s producers and a veteran theater PR man who promoted the original Broadway productions of “Hair” and “42nd St.” “But surgery can do damage.”

DeLuise lost much of his vision due to errors in cataract surgery only to learn that his doctor had faced many problems. ‘By then,” he added, “the damage was done.”

“Lady From Limerick” is being performed Thurs.- Sat. April 10-12 and 17-19 at 8 p.m., and Sun. April 13 and 20 at 3 p.m.at Theater for the New City,155 First Ave. between 9th and 10th Sts.

Tickets are $15, $10 for students and seniors at  http://www.theaterforthenewcity.net/limerick.htm, by simply going to the Theater for the New City website or by calling Theater for the New City at (212) 254-1109.

Discussions will be led by:

  • April 10: William Liss-Levinson, Ph.D.,  VP, Chief Strategy & Operations Officer Castle Connolly. 
  • April 11: Joanne Doroshow, Founder and Executive Director, Center for Justice & Democracy. 
  • April 12: Randi Redmond Oster, Author and founder Empowered Patients. Improved Outcomes. 
  • April 13: Suzanne Mattei – New Yorkers for Patient and Family Empowerment   
  • April 20:  Andrea  Goldstein RN Vice President for Medicare/Federal Health Care Assessment at IPRO. 
GLENN April 12, 2014 at 10:42 AM
Brilliant

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