When Sharon Green‘s brother, who suffers from dementia, became agitated and violent, he was transported from the Westview of Derby care home to a nearby hospital for treatment. The emergency medical technicians who transported him carried his guardianship papers, which directed the hospital to call the care home with a diagnosis and treatment plan for him.
But that’s not what happened. Sharon says her brother, who she hasn’t seen in person for several months due to COVID-19, was treated at the hospital and then promptly placed in a cab to go back to his care home.
No one ever called the care home to see what to do with him or to ask for him to be picked up. They didn’t even inform the care home that they were sending him back.
According to Sharon, the taxi driver dropped the patient off at the door of the care home and left him there. Later, a staff member found him wandering around the parking lot outside the locked building.
“As I understand it, alone,” Sharon explains. “That cab was not in the parking lot when they found my brother.”
Sharon says her brother is incredibly vulnerable due to his deteriorating condition. “He doesn’t know how to dial a phone,” she says. “He wanders.”
Mitzi McFatrich, the executive director of Kansas Advocates for Better Care, agrees with Sharon, saying it was dangerous decision on the hospital’s part and that more professional oversight is needed in the absence of family visitors during COVID-19:
“Just doesn’t seem like that would be a great idea. Just in the sense of, you never know what’s going to happen between point A and point B. I think that is not a reasonable way to be treating our older and vulnerable citizens. I think that is something that we need to address immediately going forward.”
The hospital did not comment on the patient’s case due to privacy regulations. However, they did send a letter to Sharon, stating that they had not received the guardianship papers at the time of the patient’s arrival and that his cognitive state did not appear diminished, so they did not have any qualms about discharging him without extra assistance.
The letter also stated that the hospital staff attempted to contact Westview to arrange transportation but that their attempts failed.
Sharon’s brother is now resting safely back at his care home, but she hopes that this incident is a lesson learned and that it won’t happen again.
“I think for the sake of disabled people, we need answers on why that happened, and that they’ve corrected it,” she says.
Hopefully the hospital will indeed do better in the future. In their letter to Sharon, they wrote, “Your candid feedback has helped identify opportunities to improve, and the hospital is committed to enhancing patient safety during transitions of care from EMS to our staff.”
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?