On September 24th, Amber Joy Milbrodt injured her leg while playing volleyball. Needing medical treatment, Milbrodt went to the emergency room at Parkland Hospital in Dallas, Texas. After a three and a half hour wait the a nurse provided an initial assessment of Ms. Milbrodt and sent her back to the waiting area. Fifteen hours later and still sitting in the waiting area, Ms. Milbrodt had enough and went home. Ms. Milbrodt later visited a chiropractic school where they confirmed that she had a broken leg. Ms. Milbrodt received a bill for the emergency room assessment several days later.
What makes this incident particularly disturbing is that it comes just five days after a man died after waiting 19 hours for relief of his chest pain. On September 20th, 59-year-old, Mike Herrera, died from cardiac arrest in an examination room in the emergency room. Mr. Herrera checked himself into the emergency room at a computer kiosk before he began his wait.
Parkland officials acknowledge the problem with patient wait times in the emergency room. “There’s nothing you can say except just apologize for this happening,” Parkland’s president, Ron Anderson, told reporters after the September 20 death.
Mr. Herrera’s death follows years of warnings about excessive wait times in the emergency department of Dallas County’s charity hospital, which serves the indigent and others without health insurance. A 2004 study on the hospital – which noted two previous consultant reports – said wait times in Parkland’s ER were so excessive that more than one in 10 patients left the hospital before seeing a doctor.
Since then, that ratio has increased to one in five. Officials say the hospital simply has too few beds for the crush of people needing care. The emergency department, where 81 percent of the hospital’s patients are admitted, is a perpetual logjam. Last year, patients admitted to the hospital through the ER waited an average of 12 hours and 42 minutes for an inpatient bed. This year, the hospital has shaved an hour from that time.
Obviously this facility is in the business of providing inadequate patient care. Even if the facility is overwhelmed with patients, a person from the hospital must be present to prioritize patient needs. Not tending to cardiac or orthopedic patients in a timely manner is malpractice and the facility should be held fully responsible for the injuries.