Minnesota Woman Wants New State Law to Hold Doctors Accountable

Updated: 02/26/2014 10:25 PM
Created: 02/26/2014 9:43 PM
By: Jay Kolls

Sheila Van Pelt might not get the answers she has been looking for, but she wants independent investigations into doctors and nurses and she wants the results made public. 

Her mother, Sheila Pietig, died in 2011 in an assisted living center. Her mother was 87 years old, but Van Pelt says she was relatively healthy until a serious of infections and a stroke ended her life. But Van Pelt says she was most concerned about the level of care her mother received.

"Her symptoms grew worse and she needed to be hospitalized and I kept pushing to have her hospitalized but the assisted care center did not listen to me," Van Pelt said.

Van Pelt filed a quality of care complaint with the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). Investigators looked into the facility's practices but the State did not investigate the doctors, or nurses, paid by the HMO to care for Van Pelt's mother.  Van Pelt says she was told by MDH officials that "the HMO would investigate the doctors and nurses they hired and then report back to the State with its findings."

Van Pelt says she was shocked that the HMO would be allowed to investigate its own contract employees. To make matters worse, Van Pelt says she was told the investigation would not be public information either.

Van Pelt is now working with lawmakers to change state law and require the health department to conduct and independent investigation into the caregivers as well as the facility when a complaint is filed.

Van Pelt understands it is a long shot to get the reform she wants, but already has a couple lawmakers interested in carrying her bill.

Sheila Van Pelt investigating mother's death in assisted living center.

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