A Big Island family has finally settled a major medical malpractice case over the death of an 8-year-old Hilo girl.
The child's parents kept seeking treatment for her leg infection, including three trips to the emergency room. The settlement process, which involved multiple parties, recently wrapped up.
Rienda Supu was a second grader at Kalanianaole Elementary School. Her mother took her to Bay Clinic in Hilo for a cut on her leg on Aug. 29, 2012. A few days later, lab results revealed that the infection included staph and strep bacteria.
"The nurse practitioner never apparently looks at the culture and just gives this broad spectrum antibiotic, Bactrim, which is fine for staph, but not for strep," said Richard Turbin, the attorney for Supu's family.
The family is from Chuuk. According to Turbin, as Rienda's symptoms worsened, her parents took her to Hilo Medical Center's emergency room on Sept. 10 and 13, before she was finally admitted on September 17.
She died the next day.
An autopsy showed that she had developed acute rheumatic carditis.
"The Pacific Islanders are very susceptible for extremely serious ramifications if a strep infection is unattended," Turbin said.
The federal government settled for $850,000 on behalf of Bay Clinic since it's a federally qualified health center. The settlement amounts agreed to, by the state for Hilo Medical Center and the insurance provider for three physicians, are confidential.
"The sad fact is there was a very unnecessary death and she was not properly cared for on many occasions," said Turbin.
In court documents, Dr. William Sears, an expert hired by Hilo Medical Center, stated that rheumatic carditis is a rare condition in an 8-year-old child. He also concluded that the treatment and follow-up by Bay Clinic were below the standard of care due to the facility's failure to contact the family and change the antibiotic once the lab results revealed a strep infection.
Bay Clinic's medical director said their condolences go out to the family, but that they are unable to comment any further due to patient privacy laws.
As part of the settlement, the parties did not admit to any liability.