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As Man Is Dying in Hospital Parking Lot, Police and Ambulance Get There Before ER Staff

Posted Feb 15, 2011 7:04 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Seemingly, 61-year-old Birgilio Marin-Fuentes shouldn't have had to look far for help when he apparently had a heart attack as he was driving his car erratically into the garage of a Portland, Ore., hospital and crashed into a wall there earlier this month.

But he got more assistance from city police and an ambulance dispatched to the parking garage than Portland Adventist Medical Center personnel, even after a police officer ran to the hospital emergency room and asked for help, according to the Oregonian and a written statement (PDF) by lawyers representing his family.

A total of 10 police officers and an ambulance called by ER staff reportedly responded before anyone from the emergency room staff made any effective effort to provide direct assistance, and that also appears to be the case from a Oregonian video clip linked to the article. Although the parking garage had a surveillance camera, it wasn't until a passerby noticed Marin-Fuentes and alerted a police officer, some 20 minutes after his car crashed, that anyone tried to help him. Marin-Fuentes died.

"We all did everything that we could to save this gentleman as soon as we heard that he needed help," said Dr. Kelli Westcott, who serves as vice chair of emergency services at the hospital, at a Feb. 10 press conference, insisting that protocols save lives and the hospital had followed them.

"Unfortunately, the outcome is not what anybody would have wanted," she said. "But everything that could have been done and should have been done last week was done."

U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer has called for the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services to investigate, and has also talked with state and national hospital associations "to make sure everybody gets their signals straight," reports the Associated Press.

Under the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, all hospitals that participate in the Medicare program are required to provide treatment to critically ill individuals on their premises, which include their parking lots, Blumenauer said.

Related prior coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "$3M Settlement By LA Hospital Over Woman Who Died Untreated in ER"

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