Nine days after a Black doctor died of COVID-19 after alleging she received racist medical care at Indiana University Health North Hospital in Carmel, the hospital system said it is still in the process of forming an external investigation into the physician’s death.
IU Health, the state’s largest hospital system, said it has reached out to a “wide-ranging group of national and local medical and diversity experts” to participate in an independent external review. But how long it will take to form an outside group and conduct an investigation remains unclear.
“We are currently vetting participants for the external investigation,” an IU Health spokesman said in an email Tuesday afternoon to IBJ. “To ensure confidence in the process and the outcome, we will allow investigators to dictate the timeline.”
IU Health gave few details into how the investigation will be conducted, except to say it wants to develop a full understanding of the treatment of Dr. Susan Moore, 52, who died Dec. 20.
“Our goal is to develop a holistic understanding of Dr. Moore’s care, from both clinical and patient experience perspectives. The investigations will include interviews with Dr. Moore’s providers and a review of relevant records.”
The death of Moore, a family medicine physician who had practiced in Indiana since 2009, has garnered national interest after the New York Times, the Washington Post and other major outlets wrote stories about her treatment at the hospital, describing footage from Moore’s seven-minute social media post.
Moore was admitted to IU Health North Hospital earlier this month after testing positive for COVID-19. In her Facebook post, she said she had to repeatedly ask for medication, scans and routine checks. She said caregivers there, including one white doctor, seemed to dismiss her pain, and wanted to discharge her from the hospital late in the evening.
“I put forth and maintain, if I was white, I wouldn’t have to go through that,”Moore said in the Dec. 4 video, as she labored to breathe, with her voice often cracking. “This is how Black people get killed, when you send them home, and they don’t know how to fight for themselves.”
She was released from the hospital on Dec. 7, but was again hospitalized 12 hours later when her temperature spiked and her blood pressure dropped, according to her post. She was taken to a different hospital, Ascension St. Vincent in Carmel, and said she was experiencing better care. Still, her condition worsened, and she was put on a ventilator. She died Dec. 20.
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris took up Dr. Moore’s cause in a tweet on Tuesday. “”This tragedy is all too common for Black women across our nation whose concerns and pain are often downplаyed or ignored in our health care system,” Harris wrote. “We must do better. Our administration is committed to confronting these glaring racial health disparities.”
The hospital system said it is also conducting an internal investigation, which is underway. It did not say what it has learned so far from the internal investigation.
Dennis Murphy, the president and CEO of Indiana University Health, said in a statement on Dec. 24 he was “deeply saddened” by Dr. Moore’s death and by the experience she described in the video.
“It hurt me personally to see a patient reach out via social media because they felt their care was inadequate and their personal needs were not being heard,” Murphy said.
He said that after a preliminary medical quality review, he was confident that the medical team had the expertise to treat complex cases.
“I do not believe that we failed the technical aspects of the delivery of Dr. Moore’s care,” he wrote in the statement. “I am concerned, however, that we may not have shown the level of compassion and respect we strive for in understanding what matters most to patients. I am worried that our care team did not have the time due to the burden of this pandemic to hear and understand patient concerns and questions.”
IU Health said that once the external review is complete, it will take “appropriate actions based on the findings and recommendations from the panels.”