Thursday, June 23, 2016
Outbreak Victims Frustrated by Delays
By Walter F. Roche Jr.
Word that checks will not go out till August and some may be delayed to December is not going over well with victims of the 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak, who have been waiting more than three years for some recompense.
The delay, which was disclosed during a federal court session Wednesday in Boston, Mass. means about 1,200 checks will go out in August while the remaining 1,150 will be sent out in two waves, in October and December.
Victims of the outbreak contacted following the disclosure expressed anger and frustration.
The 2012 outbreak, caused by fungus infested steroid drugs, sickened 778 patients in more than 20 states. Seventy-seven died, including an Indiana man who passed away in March.
"I feel the courts and judges have done nothing to help the victims at all," said Jona Angst, a Michigan victim. "Victims are being victimized all over again.
"We've been told so many lies about when we are to receive compensation and they just keep pushing it back."
Angst said the continuing delays are forcing her into filing for bankruptcy.
"We have no choice now," she said. "I am devastated."
For most Tennessee victims there was a glimmer of hope from the Wednesday session, when the presiding judge, Rya Zobel, was told that a settlement agreement with the Saint Thomas Outpatient Neurosurgical Center was virtually complete.
According to court testimony the settlement would affect 116 victims who were injected with fungus laden methylprednisolone acetate at the Saint Thomas clinic.
But the disclosure gave no details on how much money might be going to those victims or when it might be distributed.
And the Nashville, Tenn. area victims share in the frustration expressed by Angst and others from across the country.
Larry Burns, whose wife Ronda was a victim, termed news of the delay unacceptable and said he believes "this is just another delay on the part of the attorneys ... and I cannot believe that Judge Zobel would allow this to happen."
"Victims are still suffering and lost a lot through this. Enough is enough," Burns wrote, adding that he hoped that there was a way to convey his feelings to the judge.
Brenda Bansale, a Michigan victim, said "we've heard this same rhetoric before. Some of us were hoping to get something in July but once again its been pushed back to a later date. I've given up hope that we'll ever see a dime from this settlement."
Kathy Pugh, whose mother was a Michigan victim, said she is angry that the federal government will be getting a share of the $200 million trust fund established in the bankruptcy of the New England Compounding Center, the company blamed for producing the drugs that caused the outbreak.
The federal government "does not deserve one penny," Pugh wrote, adding that if federal regulators had been doing their jobs the outbreak would never have occurred.
"They were very aware of the issues with the medication not being sterile but did nothing to stop them from being shipped all over the country,"she added.
And, she noted, the fact that checks will not be going out till August or even December "makes it all the worse."