Communication Lapse 'Contributed to Poor Treatment' of Late Teva Chair

Hurvitz died at age 79 after a battle with cancer.

Serious communication lapses amongst the medical staff at Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer affected the treatment of Eli Hurvitz, the late chairman of Teva Pharmaceuticals, who died last November, the Health Ministry ombudsman said Tuesday.

Prof. Chaim Hershko said the miscues played a part in Hurvitz's deterioration on the last day of his life. Hurvitz died at age 79 after a battle with cancer.

Hershko's conclusions, which were submitted to Health Ministry director general Prof. Ronni Gamzu, were harsher than the findings of a ministry-appointed committee that investigated Sheba's handling of the case. That committee, however, also pointed to communications problems.

The committee, appointed when Hurvitz's family complained about his treatment, found that when Hurvitz's condition started to deteriorate, the medical personnel in the hospital's internal medicine ward did not summon the senior doctor on call. The ward's duty physician also did not come immediately to examine Hurvitz, despite repeated requests by the family and the nursing staff. The committee said it took him three and a half hours to show up, and that was only after Hurvitz started to exhibit signs of total organ failure.

Furthermore, the results of blood work done on Hurvitz in the morning were not known to the doctors who treated him in the evening.

The panel also concluded that the medical staff didn't immediately recognize the seriousness of Hurvitz's condition and gave the family too optimistic a prognosis. Thus, some of their claims about his treatment were the result of unrealistic expectations.

Despite the blunders, the committee concluded that Hurvitz's medical treatment "was in keeping with acceptable standards."

Hershko was more critical, saying, "the case reveals significant deficiencies in the work methods of the department, as expressed in failure to transfer crucial information and assure responsible shift handovers."

The Health Ministry said that it would examine Hershko's report and consult with its legal office to determine whether any disciplinary action should be taken against the medical staff that treated Hurvitz.

Sheba stressed that the ministry committee had found Hurvitz's treatment to be within acceptable standards. It also criticized Hershko's report, saying the hospital "doesn't understand the gap between the committee's conclusions and the ombudsman's comments."