Who's to Blame in Waiting Room Death? Could it Be the System?
It's every ER's worst nightmare; a patient dies in the waiting room, and isn't discovered until hours later. It doesn't happen often, but it DOES happen. Why?
The most recent case that I became aware of occurred nearby in Delaware.
I live close enough to this hospital that I am hearing gossip about this event. Some people are blaming the fact that he was uninsured and turned away. Some are saying that he received substandard care because he was not Caucasian.
The family says the patient had a positive cardiac history and should have been kept for observation, and of course, the hospital insists he was treated appropriately and discharged. Citing HIPAA, they will not release any other information.
I offer my deep condolences to the family, and I can't say I blame them for taking legal action. I certainly would. But as an old, long-time ER nurse, I seriously doubt the insurance/not Caucasian rumors, and I think that the ER probably did treat him appropriately by today's standards. It's today's standards that are probably to blame. He most likely didn't rule in for MI, so they let him go. However, based on the information provided in the newspapers, I think that a 38-year-old man of African descent complaining of chest pain with a positive cardiac history should have been observed for at least 24 hours. If that isn't their standard, then it should be. I'll be watching to see what happens.