“Not even Karnamaya Mongar’s death triggered an inspection or investigation”

Editor’s note. This excerpt is from an almost unbelievable report by a Philadelphia Grand Jury. Abortionist Kermit Gosnell is charged with eight counts of murder. We are running a excerpt from the 261-page report each and every day.

On November 24, 2009, [abortionist Kermit] Gosnell sent a fax to the department, followed by a letter addressed to [Janice] Staloski [one of the evaluators of Gosnell’s clinic], notifying DOH that Karnamaya Mongar had died following an abortion at his clinic. (Gosnell’s letter inaccurately stated that the second day of her procedure was November 18.) Darlene Augustine, a registered nurse and health quality administrator in the department’s Division of Home Health, received the fax.

Augustine, who supervises surveyors who respond to and investigate complaints at health care facilities, testified that she immediately notified her boss, Cynthia Boyne. (Boyne had become director of DOH’s Division of Home Health in 2007, when Staloski was promoted to head the Bureau of Community Licensure and Certification.) Augustine said that she told Boyne on November 25 that DOH should immediately go out to the clinic and initiate an investigation. Augustine acknowledged that she generally had the authority to send surveyors out to investigate – and she often did so within an hour of receiving a notice of a serious event such as a death. She testified, however, that she felt she needed Director Boyne’s approval because Gosnell’s notice involved an abortion clinic.

Boyne did not give her approval. Instead, she went to the bureau director, Staloski, to discuss the matter. Augustine explained that abortion clinics were treated differently from other medical facilities because Staloski had for years overseen the department’s handling of complaints and inspections– or lack of inspections– relating to abortion clinics. Staloski, according to Augustine, was “the ultimate decision-maker” with respect to whether DOH would conduct an inspection or investigation. Augustine testified that neither Boyne nor Staloski ever gave her approval to conduct the investigation that she thought was appropriate.

Boyne blamed Staloski. She said that her boss told her that DOH did not have the authority to investigate Mrs. Mongar’s death. Staloski apparently reached this decision on her own, without ever consulting [Kenneth] Brody, the legal counsel. Staloski, according to Boyne, was only interested in making sure that Gosnell filed an on-line report in accordance with a 2002 law, the Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error (MCARE) Act. That law requires health care facilities to report serious events, including deaths to DOH. 40 P.S. §313.

Staloski’s plan, Boyne said, was to then charge Gosnell with failing to file the report in a timely and proper manner. This is absurd, and Boyne should not have accepted such a ridiculous idea. Gosnell had reported Mrs. Mongar’s death to DOH on November 24, 2009. While this was three or fours days late, and the notification came by fax and letter rather than computer, it is preposterous to think that Staloski, who had ignored two deaths and other serious injuries at the clinic, would take action against a doctor for filing a report three days late. Staloski was absolutely wrong about DOH’s lack of authority to investigate Mrs. Mongar’s death.

Appallingly, the chief counsel for the department of health, Christine Dutton, defended Staloski’s inaction following Mrs. Mongar’s death. Dutton testified that she had reviewed the emails and documents showing that Staloski and her staff were communicating with Gosnell’s office to get him to file the MCARE form. Based on these very minimal efforts, Dutton insisted: “we were responsive.” Pushed as to whether the death of a woman following an abortion should have prompted more action – perhaps an investigation or a report to law enforcement – Dutton argued there was no reason to think the death was suspicious. “People die,” she said.

Not only was a probe into Mrs. Mongar’s death authorized and appropriate under the Abortion Control Act, it was required under the MCARE law. 40 P.S. §306. Yet DOH did not investigate. Staloski told the rand Jury that she remembered reviewing with Boyne the letter in which Gosnell notified DOH of Mrs. Mongar’s death. Staloski said that it was really Boyne’s responsibility to order an investigation, but acknowledged that she, as the bureau director, also failed to do so. Instead of conducting an investigation, Staloski and Boyne concerned themselves with badgering Gosnell to re-notify them of Mrs. Mongar’s death.

Bureau Director Staloski, in fact, readily acknowledged many deficiencies in DOH’s, and her own, oversight of abortion facilities. But her dismissive demeanor indicated to us that she did not really understand – or care about – the devastating impact that the department’s neglect had had on the women whom Gosnell treated n his filthy, dangerous clinic.

Staloski excused the DOH practices that enabled Gosnell to operate in the manner that killed Ms. Shaw, Mrs. Mongar, and untold numbers of babies. She simply said the abortion regulations – written by DOH – do not require DOH to inspect abortion clinics.

When DOH inspectors finally entered Gosnell’s clinic in February 2010, not at Staloski’s direction but at the urging of law enforcement, Staloski seemed more annoyed than appalled or embarrassed. On the morning after the raid, she received a copy of an email that Boyne wrote to Brody the night of the raid. Boyne reported to the department’s senior counsel that, at 12:45 a.m., she had told the Department of Health staff members at the clinic to “wrap it up and secure lodging in the interest of their safety.” Boyne told Brody that the “staff walked into a very difficult setup.” She complained that a representative of the District Attorney’s Office was “badgering” DOH staff to shut down the facility immediately. Boyne was seeking Brody’s legal guidance.

Staloski’s response to Boyne’s email was: “I’d say we were used.” Boyne’s reply: “Bingo.”

Staloski, the woman most directly responsible for the department’s oversight of abortion facilities, told the Grand Jury: “I haven’t been in any facilities in probably – in an abortion facility in many, many years.” The citizens of Pennsylvania deserve far better from those charged with protecting public health and safety.

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