Woman Falls In Hospital And Breaks Hip
But that’s not what happened.
Instead, the 82-year-old Wallace — who was leaving with her son after visiting her dying husband at Greater Niagara General Hospital on Oct. 8 — was told by staff no one could help her until an ambulance was called.
To a hospital.
“It was horrible. It really was. Everybody who walked through the door stopped and stared at me,” said Wallace, who already had a broken arm from a previous fall. She ended up spending almost 30 minutes on the ground.
“I was inside the hospital. Why did they have to wait for an ambulance to come and pick me up?”
As she lay face down on a metal grate, her right arm slashed, a security guard called for help and two nurses from the emergency room came over. But Wallace’s son said they refused to help until paramedics arrived.
“I was floored,” said Mike Wallace. “We’re probably, maybe, like a 50-yard walk, literally, down to the emergency department.”
In the meantime, Wallace’s head was wrapped in a dirty blanket and the security guard helped wipe away her blood with paper towel.
Eventually, an orthopedic surgeon came across the scene and with the help of an assistant, moved the elderly woman into a wheelchair.
Shortly afterwards, paramedics finally arrived at the main entrance — their ambulance allegedly originating in St. Catharines because no one at the hospital in Niagara Falls was available to help.
“We shouldn’t have called the emergency room,” said Dr. Kevin Smith, who was hired on to aid the beleaguered region at the end of August.
He said when a person is hurt in hospital, staff should call a “code,” meaning a team — not necessarily in the ER — is paged to help immediately.
When asked why staff felt the need to call for an ambulance, Smith said that may have been an old rule at the hospital. He said staff has now been briefed on the correct policy and a review is underway.
Health Minister Deb Matthews said the situation is unacceptable. “Clearly this is very disappointing and isn’t the standard of care that people should expect,” she said, adding she is pleased a review is being done.
This isn’t the first time the Niagara hospital has encountered controversy.
Last April, 39-year-old Jennifer James died from a “catastrophic heart event” a few days after emergency department staff refused to help her in the parking lot after her boyfriend drove her there when she lost consciousness and stopped breathing. He was told to call 911 instead.
And in July, local Councillor Joyce Morocco, who has a history of heart problems and asthma, was semi-consciousness when taken to the same hospital by her husband. He was also told to call an ambulance.
Morocco survived, and the hospital’s then-interim president apologized.
Apparently, hospital staff wrongly thought they would not be covered by insurance if they treated a patient outside a hospital building.
Two Toronto hospital presidents said their facilities provide emergency care anywhere on hospital grounds, although both acknowledged there could be situations where 911 would also be called.
Dr. Tim Rutledge, president of North York General Hospital, said he has come to the rescue himself when people have run into trouble in areas other than the emergency department.
“Even with my suit on, if there is an arrest in our parking lot or whatever, I am out there,” said Rutledge, who still works in the ER once a week.
At Toronto East General Hospital, president Rob Devitt said staff respond to emergencies wherever they occur. But he noted that at larger hospitals with numerous buildings it might make sense to send an ambulance to bring a patient to ER.
As for Wallace, she simply wants an apology — something the Niagara Health System claims it has done, but she hasn’t yet received.
“All I want is that if this happens again, nobody’s treated like that.”