A 63-year-old man who felt pain going down his right side walked several blocks from his home to a local Philadelphia hospital emergency room where the emergency room hospital staff registered him. He spoke with other waiting patients in the emergency room for about twenty minutes. About 80 minutes after arriving, and without being seen by the triage nurse and without receiving any medical care, the man died while still seated in the emergency department waiting room, apparently from a heart attack.
Surveillance cameras show the man’s body, still seated, when three homeless drug addicts walked over to the man and stole the man’s watch from his wrist. At no time did any of the homeless men seek help for the dying man. Instead, one of the men stayed until he was treated by an emergency room doctor. Later, a security guard woke one of the other sleeping homeless men, at which time another waiting patient advised the security guard that the man may have died. The man was pronounced dead one hour and nineteen minutes after he registered with the emergency room.
The man is survived by his wife and three children. He was a well-respected and dedicated school counselor who had worked at an inner-city high school for more than 30 years. He was also a musician and activist in his community.
The man’s family has filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the owner of the Philadelphia hospital where the man died. The hospital’s administrator testified before the Philadelphia City Council earlier this month that the hospital had failed to follow its own policy in failing to check on the man while he waited in the emergency department waiting room but the hospital has since added security to the emergency department and now requires the triage nurse to go into the waiting room to look for patients. The Department of Health had issued a report during January, 2012 that found that the hospital staff had made extensive errors before, during, and after the man’s death.
Hospital emergency rooms exist to provide emergency (urgent) acute care to their communities that is life-saving in nature. Emergency room staff know that their failure to timely and appropriately provide care to people who walk through their doors may result in severe consequences, including death. Without physically examining walk-in patients and speaking with them, it would be almost impossible for emergency room staff to determine the extent and urgency of the possible emergency or to determine and provide the necessary medical care to treat the emergency situation.
It is true that emergency rooms can become crowded at times and the wait time to be treated in the emergency room can be long. But emergency room staff are trained to perform triage, during which the staff determine the severity of the medical conditions of the waiting patients and prioritize when they are examined and treated based on the urgency of their medical conditions.
If triage is not performed, or performed in a negligent manner, it is the patients who suffer the consequences when their serious medical conditions are not timely treated. It appears that the failure of the Philadelphia hospital’s emergency room triage procedures resulted in the man not being examined, diagnosed, and treated earlier, and that such failure may have caused or contributed to his death (the man walked into the hospital under his own power but he was wheeled out of the hospital after he died without being examined or treated in the emergency room).
If the medical care (or lack of care) in an emergency room injured you or a loved one, you may want to meet with a medical malpractice attorney to learn about your legal rights.
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