Opinion » Columnists
Author`s name Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey

Hospital Emergency Rooms - a Crisis in Humanity

Edith Isabel Rodriguez, 43, died of a perforated bowel on May 9 in the emergency room of Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Hospital in Los Angeles. She had been in agony for three quarters of an hour and the hospital staff failed to give her a proper medical examination which could have saved her life.

Relatives said she lay in pain for 45 minutes before dying A security camera may have recorded the scene, but the tape was not being made public because of state laws on patient privacy.

Hospital officials were quick to blame problems with the nursing staff.

"We know we have the responsibility to make sure justice is done for our mother," said Rodriguez's son, Edmundo Rodriguez, 25.

Rodriguez's boyfriend, Jose Prado, used a pay phone outside the hospital to call 911 and told a dispatcher, through a Spanish interpreter: "My wife is dying and the nurses don't want to help her out." The man desperately pleaded for 911 to send an ambulance to remove the woman from the hospital, but such a request is quite contrary to policies and procedures. The 911 service is required to transport to hospitals, not remove patients from hospitals.

In a report to county supervisors, the hospital is said to have violated requirements to medically screen the woman. The person who failed to arrange the examination resigned and others in the emergency room were "counseled and written findings placed in their personnel files."

We see a situation where today’s health care system is comprised of mega profit corporations. Hospitals are seriously understaffed, often deliberately, to ensure maximum profits. This is not only because there a shortage of nurses and qualified staff.

If a worker calls in sick, they are usually not replaced. Work schedules are often made in advance with inadequate staff. For the profiteers, it is easier to force nurses and other staff to work short handed. In the process, staff members are over worked, underpaid and stressed to maximum limits. This often results in poor nurse and staff attitude towards their responsibilities. It becomes a fight for survival, to get through the shift without collapsing from sheer exhaustion.

It’s not enough that hospital staff are busy with genuine emergencies. There is also a segment of society that abuses hospital emergency rooms, frequently presenting for minor or non-existent medical problems. Reports indicate that Mrs. Rodriquez was considered a “regular” meaning that she made frequent visit’s the emergency room. But this does not excuse the fact that staff failed to act properly in this case. She was not properly evaluated and pleas by the family were not responded to.

Essentially, the present health care system is failing to meet the needs of a large number of Americans. Universal health care should be the right of every human being. Mega profit corporations will never provide adequate care for those who cannot afford to pay. While the government manages to deploy troops overseas to enrich yet other mega profit corporations, many Americans lack adequate health care.