A Delay in the ER Could Cost a Life or Limb
It started with a fever, skin discoloration and general weakness. When their 2-year-old daughter’s symptoms persisted, a Sacramento couple rushed her to the emergency room at Methodist Hospital. After waiting for five hours, the toddler was finally seen by a doctor who realized that she was in serious need of care.
She was flown to the children’s hospital run by Stanford University. Doctors determined that a serious infection had made its way into her bloodstream and internal organs. As a result, parts of all four of the toddler’s limbs had to be amputated. Help had come too late.
The delay in the emergency room that fateful November day has forever altered the life of a young child and her family. And, unfortunately, it is not the first time a delay in diagnosis or in a hospital waiting room has caused serious consequences – nor will it be the last.Why Delays Occur in California Hospitals
In the past few decades, hospitals across the nation have seen a growing number of overcrowding issues. In the past 20 years, the number of ERs in the United States has decreased by about 25 percent, despite the fact that more patients are actually visiting emergency rooms each year.
Overcrowding in emergency rooms often results from “boarding.” When hospitals do not have room for critically ill or seriously injured patients in regular rooms, they are left in the emergency room until beds are available. With more emergency room space occupied, it is difficult for doctors to efficiently process patients, and sometimes ambulances even have to be diverted because of overcrowding in the ER.
Delays can also be caused by understaffing – particularly of on-call specialists – and triage processes. In most emergency rooms, when patients are admitted they are triaged by a nurse, who assesses patients’ conditions and determines whether immediate care is required or if the patient can wait longer. Patients deemed critical are seen first, and those less critical are left to wait. But sometimes this intake and triage process breaks down.
In the case of the 2-year-old Sacramento girl, it is not clear exactly what factors led to the delay in her treatment. A $10 million settlement has been reached with the hospital that left her waiting for more than five hours in the ER. Most of the money will be placed in a special needs trust to pay for her rehabilitation and round-the-clock medical care. While the settlement money will help the family with bills, their lives have been forever altered and no amount of money can make up for the negligence of the hospital.
If a delay in hospital care due to an emergency room wait has resulted in injury to you or a loved one, contact our Oakland medical malpractice lawyers at (408) 289-1417.