Gambling with Children 

Kaiser says its new hospital in Oakland offers first-rate services, but critics say the healthcare giant's decision to close pediatric care facilities in the East Bay has had grave consequences.

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"It's really disgusting to know I had control," Olguin continued. "That's a really disturbing feeling [for] any parent. That's why I don't want other parents to go through that."

After Olguin and Dagatan decided to remove Jenevieve from life support, Kaiser staffers transferred her to an adult bed so that Olguin and Dagatan could spend one last night with her. Jenevieve died on April 12. Ever since, the little girl's family has been wracked with overwhelming grief and helplessness. "I'm really bitter toward other moms and babies," Olguin admitted.  

Olguin and Dagatan have few options. They could sue Kaiser, but even if they won, they wouldn't receive much. California state law caps medical malpractice damages at $250,000 (a revision will appear on the November ballot so that plaintiffs could receive up to $1.1 million). However, that's only if a malpractice lawyer decides to take their case. In California, malpractice attorneys tend to be selective because of the high risk of expense and the likelihood of a low payout. But money, whatever the amount, isn't on Olguin and Dagatan's minds. "If I could sue for a pediatrics unit, I would," Olguin said.

For Olguin, the best way to give true meaning to her daughter's death is through activism. After Jenevieve died, Olguin started participating in rallies and protests with the CNA. Kaiser's Barbara Crawford asserted in an email to me that Olguin and Dagatan's grief is being "misused by the nurses' union for a futile and irresponsible campaign to 'restore' services that never existed at Kaiser Permanente Hayward — and to draw attention to the union's own political agenda." But Olguin is steadfast in her desire for a pediatrics unit in her community to prevent other families, especially mothers, from feeling the pain she now endures.

In a recent meeting, Olguin sat down with high-level regional administrators at Kaiser. She said they urged her to file a complaint against the doctors who treated Jenevieve during both of her visits to Kaiser Hayward. Olguin said she told them she didn't want to have doctors fired. Instead, she wanted them to restore the pediatrics unit, explaining that she believed the absence of the unit was largely responsible for her loss. According to Olguin, administrators told her that a pediatrician was in the Kaiser Hayward Medical Center during Jenevieve's first visit, and that it was the ER doctor's decision not to call the pediatrician for consultation. "They're throwing the doctors under the bus," Olguin said to me.

When asked about Olguin's assertions, Hanenburg stated in an email that the firing of physicians was never discussed with Olguin, and that the administrators had merely explained to her that "it is up to the treating physician to decide on indications for an invasive test based on their expert evaluation and the information at hand."

But why she was told a pediatrician was in at Kaiser Hayward Medical Center during Jenevieve's first visit is unclear. Kaiser was not able to provide a record of a pediatrician's presence at the hospital that night. Hanenburg stated that such a record was "confirmed for Ms. Olguin," but she told me she has no recollection of seeing such evidence.

These days, Olguin is exhausted. In addition to mourning the loss of her daughter, suffering a string of disappointments associated with dealing with Kaiser administrators, navigating the state's medical complaint process, and launching her efforts at activism, she still works nights at the Hayward FoodMaxx, which sits right across the street from Kaiser Hayward. She spends much of her free time caring for her young son.

"I feel like I'm suffering for something that Kaiser did wrong," she said, "and they're just getting away with it.

"They gambled my baby's life away," she continued. "Why take the gamble?"


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