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Ruthie Foreman interview

Friday, June 1, 2012 - 10:00 a.m.

Ruthie Foreman is the head surgical nurse at Baptist Memorial Hospital where Veronica Smith sometimes performed procedures. Detectives Armstrong and Murphy interviewed her at the Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff’s Department. The interview was recorded with witness’s knowledge and consent.

Participants:

  • Detective T. Armstrong
  • Detective S. Murphy
  • Ruthie Foreman

Detective Murphy: Hello, Ms. Foreman. Thanks for coming in. I’m Detective Murphy. This is Detective Armstrong. We’ve got a few questions for you.

Ruthie Foreman: Good morning, Detectives.

Detective Murphy: Would you please state your name and number for our records?

Ruthie Foreman: My name is Ruthie Foreman, and I live at 67 Stewart Street here in Oxford.

Detective Murphy: What exactly is your position at the hospital?

Ruthie Foreman: I’m the head surgical nurse.

Detective Murphy: Which means what?

Ruthie Foreman: I manage the nurses, oversee the quality of care, assign OR nurses, keep an inventory of supplies, medications, and equipment.

Detective Murphy: That’s a big job.

Ruthie Foreman: That’s the job.

Detective Murphy: So how long have you known Dr. Veronica Smith?

Ruthie Foreman: I met her in 2006 after she opened her clinic.

Detective Murphy: And what was your relationship with Dr. Smith?

Ruthie Foreman: She used our surgical facilities from time to time, so I interacted with her occasionally.

Detective Murphy: OK. What was she like to work with?

Ruthie Foreman: Dr. Smith set very high standards for everyone that she worked with.

Detective Armstrong: So she was a pain?

Ruthie Foreman: All doctors have requirements for their colleagues and their medical support staff. As nurses, it’s our role to ensure that they give the very best patient care.

Detective Murphy: What would happen if someone didn’t measure up to Dr. Smith’s exacting standards?

Ruthie Foreman: There are procedures in place for any physician to follow in that type of situation.

Detective Armstrong: Did Dr. Smith ever use those procedures?

Ruthie Foreman: She did.

Detective Armstrong: How often?

Ruthie Foreman: I’m not sure.

Detective Armstrong: More than once?

Ruthie Foreman: Yes.

Detective Armstrong: And what were her complaints?

Ruthie Foreman: It’s not really appropriate for me to discuss personnel matters.

Detective Murphy: OK. Hypothetically then, what kind of complaints would someone like Dr. Smith have made?

Ruthie Foreman: In the past, there have been some physicians who have occasionally felt that the medical support staff could have performed at a higher level.

Detective Murphy: Would those physicians have been right about that?

Ruthie Foreman: My nurses are the best in the business. Unfortunately, there are some doctors whose communication skills aren’t as good as they could be.

Detective Murphy: So how were these situations usually resolved?

Ruthie Foreman: Usually with a simple conversation.

Detective Armstrong: And when a conversation wouldn’t do it?

Ruthie Foreman: Some may feel the need to involve management.

Detective Armstrong: Management meaning you?

Ruthie Foreman: Sometimes. Occasionally an administrator, usually Mr. Kramer, would become involved.

Detective Armstrong: That couldn’t have made you look very good to your bosses, when a doctor complained about you or your people.

Ruthie Foreman: My managers have never questioned my professionalism or my abilities.

Detective Murphy: Of course not. So, but is it typical that these situations were usually resolved this way? By asking management to mediate?

Ruthie Foreman: Different physicians have different working styles. We—some prefer to have the assistance of a third party. Others prefer the direct approach.

Detective Armstrong: Which do you prefer?

Ruthie Foreman: In my experience, the personalities involved determine which approach will be most successful.

Detective Armstrong: Which approach worked best with Dr. Smith?

Ruthie Foreman: We found it helpful to utilize the third party.

Detective Armstrong: So what you’re saying is that Dr. Smith was a pain in the neck who went crying to management whenever she didn’t like something.

Ruthie Foreman: I don’t believe that’s what I said.

Detective Armstrong: But that’s what you meant though, isn’t it?

Ruthie Foreman: Dr. Smith had an exacting personality. That’s true.

Detective Armstrong: Did Dr. Smith go crying to management when Danielle Lemmons died?

Ruthie Foreman: Between HIPAA regulations and the lawsuit, I’m afraid I really can’t discuss that.

Detective Murphy: Were you at the hospital on the day it happened?

Ruthie Foreman: I was in the hospital both the day of the procedure and the day that Mrs. Lemmons passed away, but I was not present for either.

Detective Armstrong: But you know what happened.

Ruthie Foreman: I can’t comment on the specifics of a patient’s treatment.

Detective Murphy: OK. Well, it’s our understanding that Danielle Lemmons suffered a perforated bowel when she came in—went in for a routine procedure. She became septic and later died. Would you say that’s accurate?

Ruthie Foreman: That can happen.

Detective Armstrong: How often?

Ruthie Foreman: Less than 1% of the time.

Detective Armstrong: So Dr. Smith really screwed up then, huh?

Ruthie Foreman: I wasn’t there.

Detective Murphy: How did Dr. Smith react to Danielle Lemmons’ death?

Ruthie Foreman: As you’d expect, she was upset, especially when the patient passed away. Several of her colleagues rallied around her, assured her that there was nothing that she could’ve done differently, and that it wasn’t her fault and so on.

Detective Armstrong: Were you one of those people?

Ruthie Foreman: I had to ask them to keep it down. It’s not good for a patient’s state of mind to hear a physician speaking like that in front of other medical professionals.

Detective Armstrong: How was she speaking to them?

Ruthie Foreman: As I said, she was upset.

Detective Armstrong: How could you tell?

Ruthie Foreman: Her voice was raised. Her face was red. She was gesticulating. That sort of thing.

Detective Murphy: When you said that other peers rallied around Dr. Smith, you meant other physicians, didn’t you?

Ruthie Foreman: Yes.

Detective Murphy: What about the other medical professionals at the hospital: nurses, physician’s assistants, etcetera? Did they rally around her too?

Ruthie Foreman: I believe Dr. Smith was more interested in consulting with her peers.

Detective Armstrong: Meaning she only cared about what other doctors had to say?

Ruthie Foreman: That’s often the case.

Detective Armstrong: Is that because she blamed a nurse for what happened with Mrs. Lemmons?

Ruthie Foreman: I couldn’t say.

Detective Murphy: Did Dr. Smith often blame a nurse when things didn’t go as expected?

Ruthie Foreman: I couldn’t say.

Detective Armstrong: Can you say what’s going to happen to the lawsuit now?

Ruthie Foreman: You’d have to ask the lawyers that.

Detective Armstrong: What do you think should happen?

Ruthie Foreman: The same thing that I’ve always thought. They should do whatever’s fair for everyone.

Detective Armstrong: What’s your impression of Kenneth Lemmons?

Ruthie Foreman: I really don’t know the man, but I sympathize with anyone who’s lost a loved one, especially when it’s unexpected.

Detective Armstrong: Have you ever talked to him?

Ruthie Foreman: I believe I expressed my condolences to him after his wife passed away.

Detective Armstrong: I bet he’s not a big fan of Dr. Smith’s.

Ruthie Foreman: I wouldn’t be surprised.

Detective Armstrong: I get the feeling that you’re not a big fan of Dr. Smith’s either.

Ruthie Foreman: What difference does that make now?

Detective Armstrong: Well, maybe none. Or maybe it gave you and Mr. Lemmons some common ground.

Ruthie Foreman: If that were true, I’d imagine Mr. Lemmons has a great many friends.

Detective Murphy: Did you notice anything different in Dr. Smith’s behavior in the few days before her death?

Ruthie Foreman: I didn’t interact with her on a daily basis, so I really don’t know.

Detective Murphy: Well, what did you think when she—you heard she’d committed suicide?

Ruthie Foreman: I thought it must be very hard on her family.

Detective Murphy: Do you know her family?

Ruthie Foreman: No.

Detective Murphy: Were you surprised that she’d kill herself?

Ruthie Foreman: You never know what a person is capable of under stress.

Detective Murphy: Was Dr. Smith under stress?

Ruthie Foreman: I would assume so.

Detective Murphy: Other than the Danielle Lemmons situation and the malpractice suit, do you know of anything else that would’ve been causing her stress?

Ruthie Foreman: Dr. Smith did not confide in me.

Detective Armstrong: Could someone have been harassing her?

Ruthie Foreman: I wouldn’t know.

Detective Armstrong: Oh, come on. You haven’t heard anything through the grapevine?

Ruthie Foreman: I know somebody slashed her tires a couple of weeks ago, but I assumed that was kids doing a stupid prank. Is that what you mean?

Detective Armstrong: That’s all you’ve heard about?

Ruthie Foreman: Was there something else?

Detective Murphy: Where were you the night that Dr. Smith died?

Ruthie Foreman: I was at the hospital. I went home for supper, and then I came back to check on a patient.

Detective Murphy: And what time did you finally leave the hospital?

Ruthie Foreman: It was well after midnight.

Detective Armstrong: That’s all we’ve got for you. We appreciate you coming in today. You’re free to go.

Ruthie Foreman: Thank you. Goodbye, Detectives.

Interview ends: 10:18 a.m.

Countdown until the next investigation begins

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