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911 Dispatchers Denied Dying Woman Help Hospital Investigated for Breakdowns in Patient Care ABC News

 

LOS ANGELES (June 14) -- The case of Edith Rodriguez, the 43-year-old mother of three who collapsed in the emergency room of Los Angeles' Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Hospital in May and died after not receiving help, has raised questions about the quality of hospital care and left a family grieving.

 

 

"I'm angry, but at the same time I'm feeling pretty bad about her,'" said Rodriquez's brother Eddie Sanchez.

 

On "Good Morning America" Thursday, Frank Casco, the attorney for Rodriguez's three children and four grandchildren, said what happened in the emergency room was "a mystery," but Casco says the 911 calls and security camera video proves that many people saw Rodriguez suffering and that no one offered help.

 

"She was lying in the fetal position crying and no one would help her," Casco said. "The security guards were on notice that she was laying there. The police were on notice that she was laying there. The hospital staff was on notice she was laying there."

 

Casco also said the police officers in the emergency room that morning were more interested in checking out Rodriquez for a possible parole violation than making sure she got help.

 

And other families are now speaking out with allegations that their loved ones died of neglect while in the King-Harbor ER.

 

In March 2003, 20-year-old Oluchi Oliver waited hours to be admitted to the hospital with crippling stomach pains, according to his family. After 10 hours, he collapsed dead on the floor. No one noticed, his father, Akilah Oliver, said.

 

"It's always unimaginable when a child dies, but for him to die like this, as if he were invisible -- it's really tragic and it's really unimaginable," Akilah Oliver said.

 

Last week, federal inspectors declared that patients at King-Harbor were in "immediate jeopardy" of harm or death and gave the hospital 23 days to correct procedures or lose certification. It was the fourth time in less than four years that the hospital had received the warning.

 

Timeline of Tragedy

 

At 1:43 a.m. May 9, Rodriquez's boyfriend, Jose Prado, placed the first call to 911 from a pay phone just outside the emergency room at King-Harbor Hospital.

 

911 Operator: "What's wrong with her?," the 911 operator asked.

 

Prado: "She's vomiting blood."

 

The operator then questions why hospital officials are not helping Rodriguez.

 

Prado: "They're watching her and they're not doing anything. Just watching her."

 

Rodriguez had been to the emergency room on three separate occasions. Each time she was released after being given prescriptions for pain.

 

This time, she lay on the floor of the emergency room for 45 minutes. A security video shows staffers and other patients standing by as a janitor cleaned the floor around her.

 

Eight minutes after the first call, another call to 911 apparently comes from another person not related to Rodriquez. "There's a woman on the ground of the emergency room at Martin Luther King and they're overlooking her," the female caller says, "and they're ignoring her."

 

The operator asks the caller what she wants him to do and informs the woman to contact hospital personnel. The conversation then becomes tense as the operator lets the caller know he cannot send an ambulance to the hospital.

 

"I cannot do anything for you for the quality of the hospital there," the operator says. "This line is for emergency purposes only."

 

"May [God] strike you too for acting the way you are," the caller responds. The operator says, "No, negative, ma'am. You're the one."

 

The county coroner ruled that Rodriguez died of a perforated bowel.

 

After listening to the tapes, L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yarovslosky called the hospital's actions a moral and human breakdown.

 

"I hope it's a lesson to the rest of the community that when somebody's in trouble and the appropriated reaction is not to turn your back on that somebody," Yarovslosky said. "It's to put your hand out and see how you can help."

 

Oluchi Oliver's family is not optimistic that King-Harbor can turn itself around. "It's very hard to have a lot of patience at this point and a lot of faith that the hospital can fix itself," Akilah Oliver said.

 

The supervisor of that second dispatcher said his tone on the call was inappropriate. The medical director of the hospital has been ousted for his handling of an unrelated lapse in patient care.

 

Copyright 2007 ABCNEWS.com 2007-06-13 14:35:19

 

this is a couple of days old but right now, there's a lot of pressure to shut the hospital down as this is not the first incident either. i think it's just scary because if we can't even fully trust hospitals to take care of us then what? getting 4 warnings in less than 4 years is terrible and i understand that LA needs the ER but that's just ridiculous.

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i heard this before...this is very disturbing. and i heard this place is the worst hospital ever. letting the woman die like that when she could have at least have help. i don't know what's worse...that a woman died, or that nothing was done in the one place you are supposed to get help.

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I've been following this hospital for a couple of years. LA County's Martin Luther King-Harbor hospital (previously known as King/Drew), located near Watts, is hands-down the worst hospital in the United States. Crap like this happens all the time, and this isn't nearly the worst incident.

 

It's interesting, considering that LA County operates three public hospitals, and of the three, significantly more is spent per capita on this hospital than any of the others. In fact, this is one of the best-funded public hospitals in California. This highlights that on the macro level, administrative incompetence -- not underfunding -- is what plagues a lot of public health systems and government bureaucracies. In the case of this hospital, you've got incompetence from the top-down, but nobody can do anything about it because local activists are calling the shots, crying foul when people attempt to break up the dysfunctional system. Many favor keeping jobs over building an efficient healthcare system.

 

What they need to do is shut that hospital down (something that would have already occurred eons ago if it were located somewhere else) and completely start over, from scratch, under the leadership of new professionals -- not LA County bureaucrats and community activists.

 

Re: this case, the media coverage has been pretty poor. Because the county has refused to release the video, citing a supposed ongoing police "investigation," the media has had to make do with the 911 recordings. As a result, the coverage has been unfair to the 911 operators, who couldn't have prevented this. What exactly are you supposed to do when someone calls 911 from an ER? This should all fall on the incompetence of the people at the hospital. From the original reporting last month:

 

Her boyfriend, Jose Prado, went to get something to eat; when he returned an hour later, he found Rodriguez on the floor in the emergency room lobby in obvious pain. She said something inside her had popped. Prado begged hospital personnel to do something, relatives said. When no one did, Prado went outside and called 911 from a pay phone.

 

"Nobody wanted to help him," said Marcela Sanchez, Rodriguez's sister. "When he tapped on the windows to tell the nurses that she needed help and that she was on the floor, they didn't want to pay attention to him."

That last part about the indifferent nurses is classic county hospital. It kinda reminds me of Jackson, though Jackson is probably ten times better than any of LA County's hospitals.

 

One thing we haven't touched on here is the issue of people not giving a sh*t about poor people. A little background -- the lady was apparently a transient and a long-time drug-addict, and she was actually high on meth when this incident occurred. From the original article:

 

Her son, Edmundo, said he believes hospital staff gave her less attention because "they thought she was just some woman off the streets with no family, no nothing."

 

"She was laying on the ground," he said. "Nobody there cared. They're there and they're numb to everything."

It wouldn't surprise me if he's right. I can tell you from experience that street people are not taken very seriously in hospitals. I could totally see people passing by a disheveled street person who's lying on the ground and wriggling about.

 

Another issue the media has largely ignored is the actions of the police, who actually took this woman into custody at some point during all of this, and it was in police custody that she died. If you listened to the actual audio of the first 911 recording (not the TV snips), you'll notice that the operator suggested that he talk to the hospital police if he's not being allowed into the ER. Well, that's apparently exactly what he did:

 

Because Prado was already at a hospital, relatives said, the 911 operator told him no one could be dispatched there.

 

He then knocked on the door of the county office of public safety, which provides security at the hospital. Prado said he told the officers that Rodriguez was bleeding from her mouth. A sergeant responded in Spanish, "That's not blood. That's chocolate," Sanchez quoted Prado as saying. (Prado speaks only Spanish and Sanchez translated for him.)

 

Instead of going to Rodriguez's aid, police ran her name through their computers. When an outstanding arrest warrant for a parole violation came up, they took her into custody, Prado said.

 

It was not immediately clear Monday why she had been on parole or how she had violated it.

 

As officers pushed Rodriguez in a wheelchair to a squad car so they could take her to the sheriff's station, she became unresponsive.

 

...

 

Craig Harvey, coroner's office chief of investigations, said the initial report to his agency said a woman walked into the emergency room, collapsed and died. Only days later, after The Times began inquiring, did the coroner learn that Rodriguez died in custody.

 

"Whether they felt it was irrelevant or whether they were intentionally holding it back, I can't say," Harvey said.

 

Anyway, I think the heavy (albeit poor) national media attention will do some good if it gives the county enough political leverage to tear up that establishment, lay off everybody, and start over.

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jimmy, this is a public hospital, i believe. if it were a private hospital this probably would not have happened.

if the hospital feels you cant pay, then they throw you the hell out...that is public and private policy

uh, no hospital throws anybody out in an emergency.

 

To address the point, no, this wouldn't have happened in any private hospital. And it wouldn't have happened in almost any public hospital with even mildly competent triage staff.

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In Lee County, all the hospitals are county now. Lee Memorial runs them all now that it has merged in Gulf Coast Hospital....so knocking all county hospitals is a bit unfair. UF/Shands in North Florida isn't bad either.

 

But, to say that anyone will be denied care in an ER for financial issues is just plain wrong. I believe that in Florida all hospitals must maintain a charity care fund.

 

http://www.leememorial.org/about/index.asp

 

http://www.leememorial.org/businessoffice/...aritypolicy.pdf

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jimmy, this is a public hospital, i believe. if it were a private hospital this probably would not have happened.

if the hospital feels you cant pay, then they throw you the hell out...that is public and private policy

uh, no hospital throws anybody out in an emergency.

 

To address the point, no, this wouldn't have happened in any private hospital. And it wouldn't have happened in almost any public hospital with even mildly competent triage staff.

 

Sorry Jimmy, but theres no way you can blame this on privitization or on capitalism. This seems to be more of an isolated incident, BUT if anything its ammo for arguments AGAINST socialized medicine.

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jimmy, this is a public hospital, i believe. if it were a private hospital this probably would not have happened.

if the hospital feels you cant pay, then they throw you the hell out...that is public and private policy

uh, no hospital throws anybody out in an emergency.

 

To address the point, no, this wouldn't have happened in any private hospital. And it wouldn't have happened in almost any public hospital with even mildly competent triage staff.

 

Sorry Jimmy, but theres no way you can blame this on privitization or on capitalism. This seems to be more of an isolated incident, BUT if anything its ammo for arguments AGAINST socialized medicine.

I thought all you needed for that was to speak to a few Canadiens about socialized medicine.

 

 

 

Yes, I'm being totally serious. And yes, becoming a step-canadien has me hearing about the lameness of socialized medicine.

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