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LA County hospital ER personnel allow a patient to die right in front of them

This story is shocking. A woman the ER nurses considered to be a complainer kept coming back to the ER complaining of stomach pain. Even after she fell out of the wheelchair where she had been sitting and writhed and yelled in pain on the floor, the ER staff just walked around her. Even the custodian swept the floor around her. The deliberate negligence is unbelievable. And where did this happen? Martin Luther King, Jr. - Harbor Hospital, run by LA County Department of Health Services in collaboration with UCLA, USC, and Drew Medical Society:

In the emergency room at Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Hospital, Edith Isabel Rodriguez was seen as a complainer.


"Thanks a lot, officers," an emergency room nurse told Los Angeles County police who brought in Rodriguez early May 9 after finding her in front of the Willowbrook hospital yelling for help. "This is her third time here."

Turning to Rodriguez, the nurse said, "You have already been seen, and there is nothing we can do," according to a report by the county office of public safety, which provides security at the hospital.

Parked in the emergency room lobby in a wheelchair after police left, she fell to the floor. She lay on the linoleum, writhing in pain, for 45 minutes, as staffers worked at their desks and numerous patients looked on.

Aside from one patient who briefly checked on her condition, no one helped her. A janitor cleaned the floor around her as if she were a piece of furniture. A closed-circuit camera captured everyone's apparent indifference.

Arriving to find Rodriguez on the floor, her boyfriend unsuccessfully tried to enlist help from the medical staff and county police -- even a 911 dispatcher, who balked at sending rescuers to a hospital.

Alerted to the "disturbance" in the lobby, police stepped in -- by running Rodriguez's record. They found an outstanding warrant and prepared to take her to jail. She died before she could be put into a squad car.

This incident is not the first bad mark for the hospital:

Over the last 3 1/2 years, King-Harbor has reeled from crisis to crisis.


Based on serious patient-care lapses, it has lost its national accreditation and federal funding. Hundreds of staff members have been disciplined and services cut.

Janssen said he was concerned that the incident would divert attention from preparing the hospital for a crucial review in six weeks that is to determine whether it can regain federal funding.

If the hospital fails, it could be forced to close.

[...]

Supervisor Gloria Molina, who hadn't seen the videotape, said she wasn't sure the hospital had reformed.

"What's so discouraging and disappointing for me is that it seems that this hospital at this point in time hasn't really transformed itself -- and I'm worried about it," she said.

What did Gloria Molina mean when she expressed concern that the hospital hadn't reformed? Well in 2005 the director and chief medical officer issued a report to the supervisors on where the hospital needed to improve and the status of those improvements. These are the areas where the hospital was lagging the most:

The key areas that were out of compliance with the standards of JCAHO were: 1) governance; 2) quality of patient care; 3) competency of staff including physicians and residents; 4) staff orientation and education; 5) overall management and leadership; and 6) physical plant and environment.

This is where the hospital stood on improvements, particularly in the areas of competency of staff:

Competency of staff, including physicians and residents - Resident supervision has improved as detailed in Attachment A. Little progress has been made in reducing the use of contract nursing staff. The percentage of nursing registry staff has increased with the removal of poorly performing KDMC staff. Recruitment continues to be a struggle in our goal to develop a permanent, stable, engaged, and high performing workforce.

No kidding.

This hospital is the perfect example of why government run health care as a whole would be disastrous for Americans, and it similarly illustrates the point made by a Wizbang commenter who lives in Canada and described the government run heath care in his country:

Get a laugh out of 7 government road workers holding shovels and only one of them digging? It's an even better yuk when they are hospital staff.


If you think you've seen lazy workers come on up and we Canadians will show you how it's done. You can watch the fat-arsed hippo people who dwell in city halls, motor vehicle office, federal and state/provincial offices everywhere, moving at their usual slow crawl. These ones are in hospitals, everywhere, including emergency wards.

Including the emergency ward in LA county's King-Harbor hospital.

Update: Laer at Cheat Seeking Missiles commented on this story as well and has more detail on King-Harbor's devolution:

Over the years, it has digressed from a 233-bed facility with a tip-top trauma center and a conjoined medical school to a 48-bed hospital with no trauma center or medical school. In just the last two and a half years, 260 hospital staffers, including 41 doctors, had been fired or had resigned as a result of disciplinary proceedings. The trauma facility lost its certification and was closed.


Financially, it's just as much a mess. One consulting firm was paid $1 million to straighten out problems with the nursing staff. From the story above, you can see it wasn't $1 million well spent. Another consulting firm was paid $17 million to operate the facility for $18 months.

And the whole thing has sunk into a swamp of litigation ... with Ms. Rodriguez's family to join that club soon.

Why is it exactly that this government-bred and government-run hospital should be a model for the destruction of America's medical system?

Because the compassionate liberals believe that this kind of health care is what Americans deserve.

Update II: Amy Ridenour points us to the website On the Fence Films, a site designed for those who are considering supporting the concept of socialized, universal, government run health care system. Scroll throughout the site. In it you will find many specific examples of how socialized medicine has failed the people it was supposed to help over and over again.

Amy listed several of the examples that On the Fence Films writes about:

  • The sad story of a British man who can't see because the British National Health care system hasn't gotten around to removing his cataracts -- for three years. (He has a kidney stone, too, and Britain's "universal" health care system won't fix that, either.)

  • A fellow in Canada who has been waiting eight months (so far) for heart surgery.
  • A Canadian with a malignant brain tumor who fled to New York for medical treatment, rather than (most likely) die on a Canadian waiting list. His best friend had died on a waiting list for heart surgery.
  • A South African man who dies after "elective" surgery he needed to save his life was cancelled seven times (socialized medicine systems artifically manipulate waiting list statistics to meet bureaucratic benchmarks by scheduling more surgeries than they can accomodate, and then cancel the surgeries at the last minute -- at incalulable personal cost to patients). Read the family diary to which On the Fence Films links for a fuller story of what this man and his family suffered.
  • Three stories: A Canadian girl whose heart surgery was cancelled; an Australian man who has been on a 90-day waiting list for two years; a couple who had to schedule care for three disabled family members in order for the man to have surgery -- which then was cancelled.

And note that these examples are from a variety of countries, illustrating that it isn't how socialized medicine is implemented that's the issue; it's that socialized medicine itself simply doesn't work.

Amy also recommends that you check out the film Two Women, which offers one example of how the Canadian government decides who gets the care they need and who doesn't. In A Short Course in Brain Surgery we learn that it's not a good idea to get a brain tumor when you live in Canada.


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Comments (33)

Well, that will certainly b... (Below threshold)

Well, that will certainly be a lesson to her. She'll never complain at that hospital again.

What was it about the littl... (Below threshold)
Scrapiron:

What was it about the little boy that cried wolf so many times that everyone eventually ignored him and the wolf ate him. Happened again, and what was the outstanding criminal charge? Most likely drug abuse or thief to buy drugs. She played a game and lost.

I have hauled thousands of patients to the ER, some of them dozens of times with nothing wrong with them. Well, unless you call wanting a prescription for drugs or a shot of some drug something wrong with them. The ER's across the country are overrun with welfare and criminals that use them for primary care and to obtain drugs. I've saw them wait until after 5 so the Dr's office is closed and then call an ambulance for something that should have been taken care of in a walk in clinic days before. They're just too good to have to wait in a waiting room when an ambulance will deliver them streight to a bed in the ER. Think it's bad now, wait until another 10-15 million criminals (there is no such think as an illegal) cross the border and then try to get emergency care for an American citizen, a member of your family, who has paid taxes for 50 years. The poor old criminals will come before you. The Dr's don't see a lawsuit coming if a decent person has to wait, the do from every welfare/criminal the treat.
That along with the druggies, welfare riders and criminals that call you out of bed at 3AM to a drug infected house and the first thing out of their mouth is 'i'm not going to no hospital'. Makes sense, right.
That's the reasons I no longer volunteer at the local rescue squad. Let the taxpayers foot the bill for a paid ambulance service, over and over.

Yikes Dave, I looooove dark... (Below threshold)
Paul:

Yikes Dave, I looooove dark humor but dude....

Let's see.......did the wom... (Below threshold)
civil behavior:

Let's see.......did the woman have health insurance?

Of course she did, that's why she was taken to the emergency room and was treated as though she could pay her bill.

Death for the despicables is nothing for the cons anymore. Katrina should have taught you that much.

"civil" behaviorwh... (Below threshold)

"civil" behavior

what gives you any idea that King hospital is run and staffed by conservatives?

Scrapiron, obviously someth... (Below threshold)

Scrapiron, obviously something *was* wrong. You assume a lot to assume that her previous complaints were baseless. Why not assume they were the same thing that killed her?

My last (and only) emergency room visit was for severe abdominal pain. I still don't know what it was, but I know several things that it wasn't. (I suspect what it was, and if so I may get it again.) I know that sometimes the doctors can't figure out what is wrong but if she was feeling any sort of pain like I was she was in agony and then died. And just because the doctor can't find what is wrong *doesn't* mean that a person is making it up. They could have at least given her morphine for the pain while they watched her die.

And you *don't* call the doctor for an appointment a week from next Tuesday when you feel like you've been gutted.

You go to the emergency room.

Bad situation. Bad managem... (Below threshold)
epador:

Bad situation. Bad management of Bad Situation. Bad Sensationalism of Bad Situation would not help.

Absolutely inexcusable to allow a patient like that to lie on floor. However, at that point, it may have been too late to save her.

She appears to have been rather obese, making any attempt to make a diagnosis of peritonitis difficult but not impossible. What would be really interesting is to figure out whether the two previous visits missed her diagnosis because of failure to work it up appropriately, failure to recognize abnormal findings, or failure of the disease process to show itself (normal results of a proper workup). At a busy ER with concerns about quality of staff and staffing, I'd be most concerned about her not being evaluated properly, poor communication between shifts that saw her, and folks assuming that if workup done on first visit was negative, pt didn't need to be carefully examined subsequently.

Histrionic people get fatal diseases too, but it sounds like this patient exhibited some pretty classic signs of peritonitis.

Sad.

Was Michael Moore and a fil... (Below threshold)
marc:

Was Michael Moore and a film crew there?

Just over a year ago, I wen... (Below threshold)
SCSIwuzzy:

Just over a year ago, I went to the ER.
I had insurance.
I am white.
ever been in that hospital, hadn't been to any hospital/doctor in 13 years.
I was left in the waiting room writing in pain for six hours before a single doctor asked me a question. The staff in the lobby were intent on taking first come, first server, unless you were bleeding from a serious wound.
I spent the next week in the hospital. My roomate for most of this was in the ER just after me, with a burst appendix. He also waited for hours before being let in. His father argued that his son should go first, since the pain in my gut was on the left side, not the right.
Both of us had insurance, and could obviously pay. We were also treated like shit.
Explain that to me, civil behaivor.

60 Minutes had a rev... (Below threshold)
civil behavior:


60 Minutes had a revealing report this evening on LA hospitals dropping off patients from the ER in Skid Row. One woman who was homeless and suffering from dementia nevertheless was dropped off in her hospital gown, no shoes just pushed out of a taxi.

Katrina taught us all that despicables get five star treatment in most situations.

SCS, you missed the mark. Next time you end up in the ER paint yourself black and tell them you are homeless and have an HCA. You'll get better care.

civil behavior:<em... (Below threshold)
marc:

civil behavior:

SCS, you missed the mark. Next time you end up in the ER paint yourself black and tell them you are homeless and have an HCA. You'll get better care.

Better to tell them you're civil behavior and show them your Polly-Anna Health Care card. In that world you get to the head of the line.

Did the ER staff belong to ... (Below threshold)
Greg G:

Did the ER staff belong to a union? There was a mention about contract nursing staff - was this a lowest bidder situation? Were all hires based on merit, patronage (after all, it was a government run hospital), affirmative action, or diversity? Were the staff, once hired, protected by civil service? Was the pay comparable to other hospitals, or would the best qualified staff be able to earn considerably more elsewhere? Was management trying to save money by understaffing (too few people, nurses aides instead of RNs)? Did mangagement establish procedures that would discourage people such as the woman in question from seeking care at that particular hospital? Are other hospitals in the area the same, worse, or better? Had there been any whistleblower cases by the front line staff - if so, how were they handled? Not counting this case, how did other ER patients evaluate their care? Was there an unusual situation (building fire with many injured) at the time that would have overtaxed even the best staff?

An honest evaluation of these and other questions could produce some good out of this tragedy.

epador, apparently they mad... (Below threshold)

epador, apparently they made her an appointment to see a doctor a few days later and gave her medication. According to the article the written instructions told her to return to the emergency room if she had bad pain.

When I went to the ER they saw me right away but we chose which ER to go to and didn't go to the one one that the ambulances automatically delivered to. Even with insurance the bill was substantial. I was there through a couple shift changes before they finally sent me home. The nurses were wicked funny, though they said that they get in trouble for making jokes sometimes. (Such as saying they took the nursing course offered at the state pen when asked where they went to school.)

Oh, it's not just governmen... (Below threshold)

Oh, it's not just government stuff where the service sucks. Some of the worst customer service attitudes I've come across were at a *Thrift Store*.

I think the common factor is the "aren't we so noble to be here helping you, so shape up and jump through hoops" attitude.

Nice try on the Canadian li... (Below threshold)
Wieder:

Nice try on the Canadian link.

My Canadian friend from SF thinks the Canadian health care system is vastly superior to what she sees in this country.

You Wizcons are all alike...you love taking an anecdotal story like the comment link and then use it to paint an entire system that with which you yourself have no experience.

You can thank the influx of... (Below threshold)
BillyBob:

You can thank the influx of illegal aliens that bankrupt hospitals. There is a good chance she is one them leaching off the system and the staff is indifferent to all the illegals that come in for whatever ails them and leaves them stuck with the bill as some day they will lose their jobs because they close the place down due to so many unpaid bills from illegals.

Of course we will never know if she was illegal cause no one will ask.

I wonder if she ever paid her bills.

Oh well, life goes on, for some folks that is.

Wieder:You Wiz... (Below threshold)
marc:

Wieder:

You Wizcons are all alike...you love taking an anecdotal story like the comment link and then use it to paint an entire system that with which you yourself have no experience.

I have to ask... what have you done by citing a single "Canadian friend," as support of your position?

Anecdotal maybe?

May I suggest you change your moniker to "parody of oneself?"

La Times did an expose on t... (Below threshold)
Imhotep:

La Times did an expose on this hospital about 2 or 3 years ago chronicleing all of the troubles.

Administrators and politicians are to blame for this hospital's demise. As for the patient, that's just shift-worker mentality and will only get worse here in the states.

The neglect on the third vi... (Below threshold)
epador:

The neglect on the third visit, and the involvement of the police without even having the patient examined first is a gross violation of standard of care.

This case shows both poor judgement and poor team skills - problems that can occur anywhere for a variety of reasons. If someone has peritonitis, the lab tests and physical exam should be obvious enough to paint the diagnosis unmistakably with a good history, CBC and an abdominal examination. A CT scan would likely confirm the diagnosis and send the patient directly to surgery. It remains to be seen if labs were done, whether a physical exam was performed at both of the earlier visits, and it doesn't sound like a CT was done. Did the patient get examined by an ER doc, a medical student, an intern, or a resident the first two visits? Why did the triage nurse think the patient was not seriously ill? Those are interesting questions not answered by the article.

Histrionic patients with false seizures, writhing with pains that go away when they are told they won't be getting a narcotic, or shouting and demanding care that is not indicated are everyday events in a County ER. Separating these patients from the ones that are acutely sick is a frustrating job. Its still no excuse for not performing basic evaluations when these folks present. But given what I suspect is a high volume of patient demand, low staffing and supplies, low morale and low skills, I suspect such an occurrence is inevitable.

But not because of socialized medicine.

The county hospital is a victim of the anti-socialized medical system we have in the US. Nothing to do with socialized medicine.

Health care is structured around the providers of care and the payors for care, not the patient. If a patient's needs don't fit the system, the patient is left stranded. Example: Someone has sensitivities to commonly prescribed medications that are inexpensive, and requires more costly drugs as part of their treatment. Their insurance won't pay for the drugs, or sets up obnoxious "prior authorization" hurdles for providers/prescribers, that encourage busy providers to go with inappropriate but approved therapies rather than waste time with forms and phone calls that may or may not be successful.

Example: Pt presents to ER with acute and chronic problems. ER only set up to deal with acute problems. Sends patient off to have an appointment elsewhere on another day and another place with another provider. Pt already has spent an entire day of their time, and now at least one more, before all their problems are addressed. And the bill for the ER will be a hundred times the bill for the FP who sees the patient and has to untangle the web of problems plaguing the patient.

And in this case, the ER missed the acute diagnosis and the patient died.

"I have to ask... what h... (Below threshold)
Wieder:

"I have to ask... what have you done by citing a single "Canadian friend," as support of your position?" marc

Not surprising that you think? the way you do as your reading comp is lacking.

All I did was cite one friend's personal experience as a counterpoint to Kim's use of the Canadian commenter. If you read my original comment, the instance was in no way used as a generalization about Canadaian health care in contrast to what Kim was doing w/ her citation.

My only point was that one anecdote can trump another. Only fools like you use an anecdote to define a trend.

Wieder, you obviously did n... (Below threshold)

Wieder, you obviously did not follow the link to On the Fence Films, which chronicled example after example after example of failures of the Canadian system. At least in the States, if a doctor or hospital screws up by waiting too long to perform surgery, you can sue. Waiting lists in Canada and the UK are the rule, even the law, and it's not uncommon for people to die while while they wait for heart surgeries, cancer surgeries, etc. Check out this article about an elderly man in the UK who's been waiting three years for cataract surgery and has since gone blind. So who will you sue in Canada or the UK? The government? Good luck.

The biggest problem with th... (Below threshold)
Steve L.:

The biggest problem with the discussion of government-provided health care is that to mnay of its advocates don't understand what they are talking about. I would bet that the vast majority of the supporters of a national helath-care system assume that it means that everything will stay exactly the same as it is now, only the government wil pay for it. Of course, politicians aren't interested in disabusing them of that notion.

Thanks for the link..Ya kno... (Below threshold)
nogo postal:

Thanks for the link..Ya know Kim..I look for clues of bias when I visit a new web place..perhaps the title of this article there is one such clue

"Leftist Ideologues Advocate a Perverse Health Care System"

Here is more accurate comparison..of health care systems..simple google
http://64.233.167.104/search?q=cache:z3v7Bdz4opIJ:www.pnrec.org/2001papers/DaigneaultLajoie.pdf+canada+health+care+system&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=7&gl=us&client=firefox-a

Yeah..link is dated..howeve... (Below threshold)
nogo postal:
If elected Socialized Medic... (Below threshold)
Tim:

If elected Socialized Medicine is at the top of Hillary's to do list.

Socialized healthcare will ... (Below threshold)

Socialized healthcare will be a failure in this country. Sure, we'll all be equal... equally miserable.. but that is what counts though to socialists... as long as we're all suffering..

I thought it interesting th... (Below threshold)

I thought it interesting the Michael Moore went to Gitmo in order to try and have the 9/11 responders with him treated, knowing he'd be turned down. His reason to do so was that the terrori... "illegally detained persons" were receiving better health care than most people in the states. Hell, they're even getting Korans and "balls that don't bounce" because the leftards in this country and the rest of the world demand that we cater to their every need. If the medical needs of the detainees in Gitmo were left to rot, as they deserve, then Moore would make a docu-comedy-drama on it, and the voices of his willing accomplices like Amnesty International would be shrill to say the least...

Duncan, unfortunately we st... (Below threshold)

Duncan, unfortunately we still won't all be equal. You see, we get the usual lip service that, of course, nationalized healthcare or nationalized health isurance will be "optional". But when the government is taking more of your money to cover these costs, the middle class will have a harder time affording private insurance. So only the most wealthy will be able to afford their own to be applied in their own private hospitals. This will give politicians even more opportunity to use the class-warfare platform until those "options" are removed and the entire system is nationalized.

Not to defend the hospital ... (Below threshold)

Not to defend the hospital staff, but this should be a good Easop's Fable about crying wolf.

It makes me sick to my stom... (Below threshold)

It makes me sick to my stomach to think that Michael Moore's upcoming "documentary" will likely enshrine and enthrone these hideous ideals.

I found it hard to keep my comment civil.

About 10 years ago, my brot... (Below threshold)
MoCo:

About 10 years ago, my brother (an MD) worked at Harbor as a resident. He told me that it provided excellent service, but as far as he could tell, almost no one who came there was actually a paying patient. He got lots of experience treating gang members, gunshot victims, illegal aliens, and so forth. This is a good example of what happens when the paying population no longer uses a hospital.

THIS IS TRULY AMAZING!!! WH... (Below threshold)
P. Cooper:

THIS IS TRULY AMAZING!!! WHY ARE WE TALKING ABOUT THIS WOMAN BEING HISPANIC!!! I GUESS BECAUSE OF THE SITUATION WITH THE ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS. WE HAVE MISSED THE BIGGER PICTURE. WHAT IF THERE WERE NO ILLEGALS, JUST JON Q PUBLIC THAT WENT TO THIS HOSPITAL??? THIS KIND OF BEHAVIOR IS UNCALLED FOR. THEY SHOULD SHUT THIS HOSPITAL DOWN. IF THIS HOSPITAL WERE SERVING THE RESIDENTS OF BEVERLY HILLS, IT WOULD HAVE SHUT DOWN FORGET THAT, WE WOULD NOT BE HAVING THIS CONVERSATION!!! SICK PEOPLE COME IN ALL COLORS, SHAPES AND SIZES. SKINNY AS WELL AS FAT FALL PREY TO SOME SERIOUS ILLNESS. WHAT DOES HER RACE, BODY SIZE HAVE TO DO WITH THE FACT THAT SOMEONE LOST THEIR MOTHER BECAUSE OF SOMEONE'S LACK OF SENSITIVITY??? THIS IS AMERICA, NOT A THIRD WORLD NATION. WHY IN THE AGE OF MODERN TECHNOLOGY, SHOULD THIS HAPPEN. I GUESS SHE WAS JUST SOME POOR WOMAN, MAYBE? AND THE STAFF, JUST LET HER DIE. I HOPE THAT NONE OF US, EVEN THOSE THAT HAVE GREAT INSURANCE WILL NEVER KNOW WHAT THIS FEELS LIKE. I KNOW, MY OWN FATHER DIED,SOME YEARS AGO, BECAUSE THE EMR TOOK TO LONG TO TREAT HIM...HE HAD GOOD INSURANCE TOO. I SEE NOTHING HAS REALLY CHANGED. PRAY, NONE OF YOU GET SICK NEEDING A DOCTOR,EVER...

Something like this happene... (Below threshold)
sarab:

Something like this happened to me in an ER and I was an american citizen. I was denied care over the course of hours and am disabled for life because of it. I even had health insurance.




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