Liability Claim Filed Against Lakeway Hospital

Rawney McVaney’s story continues

Rawney and Dena McVaney, 2017 (Courtesy of Rawney McVaney)

On Sept. 11, an attorney for Rawney McVaney filed notice of a liability claim against Baylor Scott & White Medical Center-Lakeway (and several BS&W staff members), concerning McVaney's treatment in the hospital's emergency room earlier this year. As the Chronicle reported in April, on Feb. 20, McVaney visited the hospital complaining of increasing weakness in his arms and legs, received only cursory examination before being sent home several hours later, and that evening was diagnosed with life-threatening Guillain-Barré Syndrome.

Dr. Robert Van Boven diagnosed McVaney's condition and sent him to Seton Hospital in Austin, where he received emergency, life-saving treatment. McVaney has spent the subsequent months in recovery and physical therapy, with an uncertain prognosis. Meanwhile, the state Department of Health and Human Services confirmed that his treatment at Lakeway violated both state and federal standards. The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services subsequently informed the hospital that a correction plan must be in place at the hospital by Sept. 16 – and in the absence of a correction plan acceptable to HHS, the hospital would potentially be subject to termination from the Medicare program, as early as Oct. 1.

Hospital President Philippe Bochaton submitted a correction plan on July 13. Asked to provide an update on the status of the complaint and plan, an HHS spokeswoman referred the question to the open records department (that request is pending). Baylor Scott & White Health released a statement saying they are unable to comment on specific complaints, but "take concerns of our patients very seriously. ... We are working with the Texas Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and defer to them for any additional information."

Last week, McVaney told me that he remains in constant pain, has great difficulty walking, and spends much of his time in a wheelchair. He believes that had the hospital emergency staff taken his complaints seriously and performed a more thorough examination, they could have provided urgent treatment. He and his wife Dena credit Dr. Van Boven with saving his life. "My condition didn't need to get this bad," McVaney said. According to the HHS documentation, his emergency critical care at Seton included intubation and subsequent life support; he remained in the hospital until June, and continues to undergo intensive physical therapy. In March, Dena McVaney told HHS investigators, "It's been a nightmare."

McVaney was self-employed as a commercial broker, and the episode has also devastated the family's finances – they've had to put their home up for sale. McVaney doesn't know why the hospital's performance was so inadequate – "they just didn't seem to care" – although he speculates that his lack of health insurance at the time might have been a factor. "We were in the throes of finding new insurance when this happened," he said. "And the front desk gave Dena a hard time about payment while I was in the ECU." He bitterly summed up his treatment at BS&W-Lakeway: "I could have gotten the same result if I had gone down to PetSmart."

Van Boven, once a staff neurologist at the Lakeway hospital, has a lawsuit pending against the administration for retaliation, breach of contract, defamation, etc. – depositions are expected to begin in October. Several of Van Boven's earlier reports of inadequate or dangerous treatment at the hospital were subsequently confirmed by official investigations. In the original report to the HHS concerning McVaney's treatment, the doctor wrote that the hospital had failed "to properly evaluate, examine, perform appropriate diagnostic testing, render a correct diagnosis, or treat this life-threatening emergency." Whatever Lakeway's current plan for correction, McVaney's case is remarkably similar to the November 2014 case of Marcus Turner, who was told by Lakeway doctors he was suffering from "stress and anxiety" – until Van Boven examined him and determined he had an advancing case of Guillain-Barré. Like McVaney, Turner credits Van Boven with saving his life.

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Rawney McVaney, Robert Van Boven

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