There to Help
Portland Adventist Medical Center is a large hospital in Portland, Oregon. In many respects, it is not unlike our own regional hospitals Hamot/UPMC and Saint Vincent. It holds itself out as providing essential health care services to the community, including emergency medical services. It is particularly proud of the expertise it provides “when time is critical” and calls itself a “leader in treatment of cardiac arrest patients .” According to its website, Portland Adventist is one of only two accredited chest pain centers in all of Oregon and it offers “the area’s shortest wait times.”
What Portland Adventist Medical Center says about itself is no doubt true. Similarly, the community it serves has likely come to depend on the hospital for the care of its sick and vulnerable. A hospital like this is surely immune from negligence, right? A hospital like this would never act out of foolish adherence to bureaucratic guidelines in the face of someone’s imminent death, right?
Looking for Help
Birgilio Marin-Fuentes couldn’t sleep. The 61-year-old man had been coughing and couldn’t stop. He decided to drive himself to the hospital. Shortly after midnight, Mr. Marin-Fuentes pulled into the parking garage for Portland Adventist Medical Center. He approached the “Emergency Parking Only” sign. This may have been the last conscious act Mr. Marin-Fuentes would ever take.
According to news reports, Mr. Marin-Fuentes crashed into a pillar under the “Emergency” sign, a mere 125 feet from the emergency room entrance. He was left there, unattended, for 20 minutes until someone alerted people in the emergency room.
Police officers in the E.R. were the first to respond. Officers Angela Luty and Robert Quick found Mr. Marin-Fuentes. They immediately recognized his peril and began CPR. A third officer, Andrew Hearst, went back in the E.R. for medical help.
Officer Hearst went to the E.R. intake desk. Officer Hearst told the personnel there that Mr. Marin-Fuentes was outside in the garage, that other officers were administering CPR, that Mr. Marin-Fuentes needed help.
What happened next is the reason you’re reading about Mr. Marin-Fuentes. You might imagine that an emergency team sprang into action. You might imagine that the much-touted cardiac arrest team from Adventist Medical Center was shortly on the scene. Or perhaps you are more the realist. Perhaps, you say, cardiac specialists aren’t just lingering in the E.R. The experts to rush to the scene would have been emergency medicine doctors and staff.
But none of that happened, according to news reports. Instead, Officer Hearst was told: Call 911.
The officers did the best they could until the ambulance arrived. The ambulance crew put Mr. Marin-Fuentes on a gurney. The ambulance crew rolled Mr. Marin-Fuentes the 125 feet into the E.R. By that time, it was too late. Mr. Marin-Fuentes died that night, just feet away from one of Oregon’s best cardiac care centers.
The Protocol Excuse
“The officers recognized this man needed medical attention immediately, and two officers began CPR immediately, and a third officer went to ask for assistance, and they were told they had to wait until an ambulance arrived,” said Sgt. Pete Simpson, a Portland Police Bureau spokesman. “It’s a traumatic experience to give CPR and have a person not survive, especially to be that close to a hospital with trained medical personnel right there who could have assisted,” Simpson said.
The hospital’s explanation? Judy Leach, a hospital spokeswoman, said emergency room staff was told it was a car crash and they were following the proper protocol by instructing police to summon an ambulance crew. “With an automobile accident you don’t know if the patient needs to be extricated or transported,” Leach said Friday. “There are protocols in place to ensure the right thing is done for the right patient at the right time.”
Ms. Leach claims the hospital did dispatch hospital security staff to the scene and that the hospital sent a mobile defibrillator. But her accounts are contradicted by police on the scene. “It is particularly disturbing that the hospital has given an account which is directly contradicted by the officers at the scene,” said Atty. Mark McDougal, a Portland Attorney representing Mr. Marin-Fuentes’ family.*
The Lingering Questions
Local politicians are calling for investigations and the Marin-Fuentes’ family is represented by a local malpractice lawyer. It seems likely that more details will emerge and that Mr. Marin-Fuentes’ family will at least have the benefit of what remedy our civil justice system can provide. But lingering questions remain.
What would we know if those officers hadn’t responded at the scene? What would we know if hospital security had been the first responders? Would hospital security have admitted that they failed to notice the accident in their emergency parking garage for 20 minutes? Would hospital security have blown the whistle on their co-workers and employer and admitted that Mr. Marin-Fuentes died from lack of care when the region’s most expert cardiac care team was literally feet away and knew, KNEW, of his danger but refused to help because of protocol?
The Search for Answers
As Erie medical malpractice attorneys, we know that one of the most common motives for coming to see us is the need for answers. Tragedies happen in hospitals and sometimes tragedies are “just one of those things.” But malpractice happens in hospitals, too. And when malpractice happens, families are not always told that malpractice was to blame. Sometimes, they’re just told, “We did everything we could. It was just his/her time.”
And who’s to know the difference? Hospital staff doesn’t talk, perhaps out of fear of losing their job or loyalty to co-workers. There are rarely independent witnesses on the scene. When doctors and hospitals won’t tell the truth or hide the evidence, the only hope for answers is a medical malpractice lawyer with the diligence and resources to dig for the truth.
Contact an Erie Medical Malpractice Lawyer
If you or someone in your family has suffered a serious injury (or death) as a result of what you suspect may have been negligent medical care in a northwest Pennsylvania hospital, an experienced Pennsylvania medical malpractice attorney can help you find out what happened and, if appropriate, to obtain some measure of compensation for your harm. For a free consultation with one of our Pennsylvania injury lawyers, call locally 814-273-2010 or toll free at 814-273-2010.
* Information for this blog was derived from multiple sources, including the Portland Adventist Medical Center site ; an Associate Press report ; and a KOIN Local 6 report .