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Another ER Waiting Room Death

Posted Dec 23 2008 9:14pm
A nother death in an emergency department waiting room. This time the unlucky individual was a "street person" who had been in the waiting area of Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg, Canada for some 34 hours. The patient in question was not identified as a patient and never saw the triage nurse. He was dropped off at the emergency department Friday afternoon and was found Sunday morning just after midnight still in the waiting area of the emergency department dead.

“We've never had this situation before,” Mr. Wright said. “He had some contact with the staff in the department, but he was never assessed by the triage nurse, and was therefore never identified as a patient requiring care."
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Brock Wright, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority's chief medical officer.

With the winter months fast approaching it is quite common to see the homeless and so called "street people" in all cities visit local emergency departments to sit in waiting areas that are warm and dry. Whether or not this gentleman was seeking care or not was not clear from the Globe and Mail article, but it is clear that emergency department waiting areas can be dangerous places to be, especially if they are crowded. Everyone is not feeling well, some are mildly ill while others are more serious. People are coming and going, some are patients arriving, some are family members, some are patients leaving. Emergency department waiting areas are always in a state of flux. Earlier this year we were introduced to other emergency department waiting room deaths - Kings County Hospital in New York, and at Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Hospital in Los Angeles, CA which sparked outrage from the public and incredulity from the medical community.

As healthcare continues to grapple with the myriad of issues (low reimbursement rates, staff shortages, mounting debt, etc.) that are plaguing the nation's healthcare network the old saying a hospital is the worst place to be sick may bring on much more of a true meaning.
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