Submitted By Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger
In yet another sign of the Apocalypse, an 82-year-old grandmother was denied medical attention for 30 minutes and told to call an ambulance after she fell and broke her hip. That’s bad enough, but what is particularly infuriating is that she was told this by staff at Greater Niagara General Hospital where she’d fallen.
Doreen Wallace was leaving the Canadian hospital with her son after visiting her dying husband. She fell in the lobby area and fractured her hip, cutting her arm in the process on a metal grate. Seeing the fall, a hospital security guard called for help and rushed to her side. Two nurses from the ER responded to the prone octogenarian, but refused help until the victim’s son called an ambulance and paramedics arrived to assess the situation.
“It was horrible. It really was. Everybody who walked through the door stopped and stared at me,” said Mrs. Wallace, who already had a broken arm from a previous fall. Her son Mike, who had frantically tried to get help from the on-site medical staff, added, ” We’re probably, maybe, like a 50-yard walk, literally, down to the emergency department.”
The only compassionate person on staff apparently was the security guard who wrapped Wallace’s head in a blanket and tried to wipe the blood away with a paper towel. An orthopedic surgeon s finally intervened, and, with the assistance of an aide, moved the poor woman to a wheel chair.
Adding to the farce, when paramedics did arrive, they were dispatched from far away St. Catharines Hospital because none from Niagara General were available. The supervisor of the Niagara Health System said the incident stemmed from a communication problem among staff. Apparently, they were operating under an old rule that required the staff to call an ambulance if persons were injured on the premises. A review is underway, and the Canadian Health Minister promises reform.
Call me unconvinced. Last April, 39-year-old, Jennifer James died from a “catastrophic heart event” (English translation: Heart Attack) after Niagara General Emergency Department staff refused her aid after her boyfriend rushed the unconscious and dyspneic woman to the hospital parking lot and begged for help. He was told to call 9-1-1.
Canada’s highest courts have set limits on medical malpractice awards and the country’s liability laws make establishing professional negligence difficult. Health care providers’ insurance companies defend lawsuits very vigorously and a large portion (up to 83%) of their premiums are sometimes reimbursed by the government. Punitive damages are rare. Ms. Wallace may have an uphill fight but it’s a climb worth taking.
~Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger