Margaret J. Utterback, Hayward, Ca.

Mother dies after delays in care in Kaiser phone advice, clinics (as told by Terry Preston, daughter of Margaret Utterback)

This statement documents a callously handled situation that resulted in the death of our mother.

Mom worked most of her life and paid into the Kaiser Permanente Medical Plan for 50 years. She was an energetic, active and productive 74-year-old woman. She had a long history of hypertension which should have been a red flag if anyone had considered this history as she described her symptoms. Her condition was not taken seriously and she is now dead.

On Friday, January 26, 1996, Mom awoke with sharp pain radiating from the back along the side just above the kidney and around to the abdomen. She called the Kaiser clinic and was immediately put on hold. After waiting a considerable time she hung up.

She again tried to call the clinic but they would not put her through to her doctor or to the clinic nurses. She described her symptoms to the person on the phone. She was told to call back after 3 to get an urgent care appointment for that evening. She called back 20 minutes later pleading to be seen. She reached someone who said they would e-mail her doctor. There was no response from the doctor.

Mom called again, describing the worsening of her symptoms. She was told she could not be helped and they would transfer her to patient assistance. Here she heard a taped message; in frustration and pain she hung up. She again called the clinic and was given an appointment for 4.15 pm. The pain then got worse her daughter drove her to the clinic at 2.45 pm.

She informed the staff that she was in a lot of pain they told her to sit and wait. She pleaded several times to be seen as the pain was worsening. She waited two hours. At no time did anybody assess her. When she was finally seen the doctor wanted to send her straight to the ER as he felt she had an abdominal aortic aneurysm. ER was supposed to send an ambulance for her. My mother was then left alone in the clinic room for 30 minutes. She was eventually transferred to the hospital and operated on, but the aneurysm had already ruptured.

The Kaiser system killed my mother. The system my mother tried to work through to be seen is a failure. There wasn't a single person that my mother had access to that took her seriously. She had to beg and plead to be seen. A system that allows this to happen is in dire need of reform.

Every day this month, CNA will release the story of another Kaiser patient. For information, or to speak to the patient and/or family, contact Gerard Brogan, RN, (415) 437-3328.

  • The Web Woman May Be Reached At: