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Parents of girl with cancer accuse Reno hospital of deceptive practices

RENO — The Reno parents of a young girl with leukemia are suing Renown Regional Medical Center and its former pediatric oncologist, claiming they misrepresented the hospital’s ability to care for their child and violated the state’s Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

Clint and Rebecca Echevarria said hospital officials falsely suggested it was the only facility in Northern Nevada that could treat their 3-year-old and told them she wasn’t stable enough to move to Children’s Primary Hospital in Utah.

The suit, filed last week in Washoe District Court, states that the Reno hospital also misrepresented its affiliation with the Children’s Oncology Group — a group of experts who set treatment protocols for the disease and oversee clinical trials for children with cancer.

“We believe that Renown put the family of a critically ill child at risk for one reason only: business,” said Bill Jeanney, one of the family’s lawyers.

After watching their daughter’s health deteriorate and learning of the alleged false statements by the hospital, the family moved her to the Children’s Specialty Center of Nevada in Reno for treatment, and she is doing well, he told the Reno Gazette-Journal.

Renown spokeswoman Angela Rambo said the hospital takes patient concerns seriously and investigates them fully, but can’t comment on individual patient cases due to privacy regulations.

Victoria Castaneda, who joined Renown’s Children’s Hospital in April 2012 as the center’s only hematologist/oncologist, resigned her position and left the hospital effective Dec. 5, Rambo told the newspaper.

Castaneda could not be immediately reached for comment.

Rambo acknowledged that Renown Children’s Hospital is not affiliated with the Children’s Oncology Group, which claims on its website that it is “the world’s childhood cancer experts.” She said, however, that Renown works with other COG-affiliated hospitals.

“Renown Children’s Hospital can provide follow-up care for local patients who elect to participate in the clinical trials of COG-affiliated hospitals,” Rambo said, adding that it has more than a dozen Association of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology nurses and chemotherapy-certified nurses.

The Children’s Specialty Center of Nevada in Reno, where the Echevarrias’ daughter was treated after going to Renown, was opened in March 2012 by three former Renown doctors.

The facility, a member of COG, is in the Echevarrias’ health care network, but Renown did not tell the family about that option, the lawsuit said.

On Jan. 15, the Echevarrias wanted their daughter to be flown via Care Flight to the Salt Lake City hospital, the lawsuit said. Castaneda told them that the child was not stable enough to be transported “and she needed a blood transfusion and cancer treatments at Renown before moving her to another hospital or facility,” the suit said.

The lawsuit seeks damages, medical expenses and a court order declaring that Renown’s practices are “unlawful, unfair, fraudulent and/or deceptive.”

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