City councillors plan to meet with officials at Cambridge Health Alliance about a 2016 death at the health care system’s Somerville Hospital emergency room. (Photo: Marc Levy)

Public attention for a death outside the Somerville Hospital emergency room in 2016 is not over, as the City Council announced plans Monday to call in officials from the Cambridge Health Alliance for answers about lessons learned and how the health care system plans to make itself more transparent.

And, officials suggested, perhaps for a more consequential show of accountability.

“I think their reporting will be different, because I don’t think the council should have heard about it through the newspaper,” said councillor E. Denise Simmons, who was referring at a council meeting to articles about the death published in The Boston Globe by Peter DeMarco – both a writer for the Globe and the husband of Laura Levis, who died Sept. 16, 2016, after encountering a locked door, confusing layout and unhelpful 911 system during a severe asthma attack near the hospital.

But the death was reported in Cambridge Day on Jan. 2, or 10 months before the Globe, when the Alliance claimed patient confidentiality and declined to answer questions about what had happened; it took not just the coincidence of DeMarco’s identity and profession but his upset over also not being given answers to draw attention to the issue. Also at the Monday meeting, Mayor Marc McGovern called it “not acceptable” that news of the incident became known a full two years after Levis died.

The order by Simmons and councillor Alanna Mallon calls for CHA officials to be invited to a meeting of the council’s Human Services & Veterans committee, which is led by Mallon and councillor Sumbul Siddiqui. 

It will be scheduled “as soon as possible” to talk about transparency at the health care system and fulfill the council’s obligation to be “holding people responsible and accountable,” Siddiqui said. “It’s especially important to point out that the Cambridge Health Alliance is governed by a board of trustees that’s appointed by the city manager.” (The board of trustees also includes City Manager Louis A. DePasquale as a member.)

“I’ve received a couple of emails from CHA about meetings they’ve had and improvements and things, and that’s great, but the accountability on this – this isn’t just something where you say, ‘Oops, my bad. Sorry,’” McGovern said. “Someone died.”

“And I don’t know who’s ultimately going to be held accountable for that at Cambridge Health Alliance, but somebody needs to be,” McGovern said.

DS: “Our hearts go out to the family of this young woman. Even though this took place in Somerville, the Cambridge Health Alliance is under the jurisdiction of the city of Cambridge … and so I thought it was important for CHA to come share their lessons learned. I think it would be important to hear from the Cambridge Health Alliance directly. In that article it talks a lot about what happened, what they’re doing to change it. I think their reporting will be different, because I don’t think the council should have heard about it through the newspaper. Part of the thinking behind this order is to have a public opportunity to hear from CHA how they’ll make improvements and allows us to ask questions and get a higher level of accountability.” 

SS: “Happy to have a meeting on this. It’s especially important to point out that the Cambridge Health Alliance is governed by a board of trustees that’s appointed by the city manager. Talk about continuity, talk about transparency … it’s incumbent on us that we are holding people responsible and accountable. So we’ll work to schedule that

McG: “I’ve received a couple of emails from CHA about meetings they’ve had and improvements  and things, and that’s great, but the accountability on this – this isn’t just something where you say, ‘Oops, my bad. Sorry.’ Someone died. And I don’t know who’s ultimately going to be held accountable for that at Cambridge Health Alliance, but somebody needs to be. And to think that it comes out two years later is not acceptable, so I look forward to that meeting and that conversation, because the public and the council demand answers.”