Federal review underway into handling of sick homeless man who spent days on ER sidewalk
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The federal government is launching a review of how the Queen’s Medical Center responded to a homeless man who spent days on the sidewalk outside its ER in need of care.
Timothy Walker eventually ended up hospitalized at the Straub Medical Center, where he remains.
Due to medical privacy laws, parts of the man’s story remain unclear.
But what is certain: The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is looking into whether Queen’s Medical Center violated federal law that requires emergency rooms stabilize and transfer patients appropriately.
HNN first reported on Walker, 59, on March 21.
Good Samaritans who didn’t work at Queen’s were tending to him outside the Queen’s ER. He was covered in flies and ants and in distress.
The previous week, resident Robin Bond spotted him lying outside and called 911.
Walker was taken to the ER for treatment, but was released six hours later.
In the past, HNN was told, Walker refused emergency treatment and declined shelter with IHS.
However, this time Walker was ready for help.
After HNN’s story ran, Walker was taken to the Punawai Rest Stop for the homeless. When his condition deteriorated, he was then transported to Straub Medical Center for treatment. After a week in the hospital receiving treatment, HNN was sent a picture of a clean-shaven Walker who appeared be smiling.
The question is whether the Queen’s Medical Center violated the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, also known as EMTALA.
According to the National Library of Medicine, EMTALA applies to emergency rooms and there is one essential requirement:
“Patients who are found to have an “emergency medical condition” must be “stabilized” and treated within the capabilities of the facility. If definitive treatment cannot be provided, after stabilization, an “appropriate” transfer may take place to another facility with adequate capabilities.”
Daniel Ross, president of the Hawaii Nurses Association, defends the hospital’s actions surrounding Walker’s treatment. “We know that often we are not given the optimal level of care because we can’t,” he said. “Because we are overstretched, so there’s all those frustrations.”
He added, “Being blamed for something that’s a social problem of our whole country and our state, in particular, is just not fair to them.”
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said it’s required by federal statute to review every complaint it gets and points out that a complaint alone does not mean there is a violation.
In a statement, Queen’s said it wasn’t aware of the review but “continues to work to provide quality care to all of the people of Hawaii and looks forward to discussing ways to work with other organizations across the state regarding care for all underserved members of our community.”
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