April 1, 2011

On February 10, 2011 a 61-year-old man suffered a heart attack and crashed his car in a Portland hospital’s parking garage. About 20 minutes later, a visitor to the hospital found him and notified an officer on duty outside of the hospital. The police responded immediately. While officers performed CPR, another went to the emergency room to ask for help. What happened next sparked a federal investigation into the hospital’s practices, policies and procedures.

When the officer ran into the emergency room and asked for assistance, a worker at the triage desk told him to dial 9-1-1.

An ER charge nurse learned of the accident shortly after that and sent a paramedic to respond. The paramedic and the ambulance arrived within seconds of each other. Police told the paramedic that they could find no pulse; they continued CPR. About four minutes later, the ambulance paramedics arrived in the ER with the victim. It was too late for the man: He was pronounced dead half an hour later.

A few hours after that, the police officers complained about the hospital’s direction to dial 9-1-1. The complaint got the attention of an Oregon congressman, who started the wheels rolling for a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services investigation. The department’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services would be responsible for looking into the matter, because the lawmaker believed the hospital’s actions had violated Medicare regulations.

Under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, Medicare-participating hospitals with ERs must treat any critically ill patient on their premises, and their premises include their parking lots.

Representatives from Oregon’s Health Care Regulation & Quality Improvement Group conducted a review of the hospital in mid-February. The review covered hospital policies and procedures and included staff interviews and review of a sample of ER medical records.

This week, the results of that review were published. In a prepared statement, the hospital said that it was found to be “in full compliance with federal laws and regulations.” The chief executive said that the caregivers responded immediately to attend to the victim.

The family of the victim says otherwise. Their counsel told the press that “the establishment has taken care of its own” again. The least you can expect from an emergency department, it seems, is an emergency response.

Source:, “Federal regulators clear Portland Adventist Medical Center in parking lot emergency,” 03/ 31/2011


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