Friday, 25 July 2008

Awful care in the Emergency Room

A terrible story from the US about the death of a 49 year old woman with "psychiatric problems" who had been waiting for a bed for over 24 hours in an Emergency Room of a New York hospital. She collapsed from a pulmonary embolism and lay on the floor for nearly an hour whilst other patients and hospital staff looked on without doing anything (sic). What makes this news is that it was captured on tape that has been broadcast around the world. While some commentators have written about what an awful thing it is to have to wait, sometime for days, for a hospital bed to become available that somehow misses the point. (Although it is interesting how the financial incentives in the US encourage hospitals to keep well insured patients as in-patients and the poor or uninsured in emergency departments). What is striking to me is the complete lack of professionalism and care of any of the staff involved. Staff just looked at the woman and walked away! The lack of professionalism is reinforced by the fact that after the event the notes were altered by staff, (what were they thinking of and how stupid when the tape showed they were lying...) to make it appear as though the woman had been consistently observed and the collapse was responded to promptly. So far seven people including the head of psychiatry have been sacked. Interestingly the media reponse to this has been to portray the woman not as "someone to blame" or as "someone not worthy of attention" but as someone who lived a rich life who was unfortunate to have suffered a mental illness - a refreshing change. Be interesting to know how the media got hold of the tape and if the story would have made news without these pictures.