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Long Emergency Room Wait Times Cause Issues

After having to wait hours in the emergency room at Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee, a 25-year-old teacher has died. However, she is not the only one who has experienced delays in receiving medical care at this facility. According to federal documents, Froedtert Hospital staff did not check the woman’s vital signs as often as they should have after she arrived with chest pains and shortness of breath. The woman, Tashonna Ward, left Froedtert to find quicker care on the evening of January 2nd but collapsed and died just over an hour of leaving.

Ward was given a ride to Froedtert from her sister and checked in at 4:58 p.m. on the evening of January 2nd. Her vital signs were checked at 5:02 p.m. and staff determined that they should be checked every two hours while she waited for further care. Unfortunately, however, her vital signs were not checked again until 7:29 p.m., 27 minutes later than they should have been. After feeling like she was waiting too long to see a doctor given her symptoms, Ward left Froedtert to receive medical care elsewhere. A Froedtert Hospital nursing manager acknowledged that Ward’s missed assessments were late according to policy, but a spokesperson for the hospital declined to address specific issues.

Following Ward’s death, a federal inspection of the hospital has revealed that ER staff failed to check on multiple patients as often as they should during the months of December and January. After reviewing 20 patient records, inspectors found that Froedtert staff was late checking the vital signs of Ward and six other patients, but how these delays affected those patients is unknown. One patient whose vitals signs were supposed to be checked every 30 minutes did not get checked on for over a five-hour period. This patient had reportedly taken a painkiller along with alcohol in an attempt to commit suicide.

Ward’s death has since become a national news story, appearing across multiple forms of social media. It has sparked conversations about emergency care for black women, patients with heart problems, and patients facing long waits, which are common and unsurprising. ER crowding is often said to be due to people relying on emergency rooms who might be better served by community clinics or specialists, yet face obstacles, such as insurance and other barriers. However, several studies show that the root causes of overcrowding in emergency rooms are caused by other issues, including inpatient staffing shortages, cumbersome admissions and discharge processes, inefficient lab testing, and elective surgery taking place in the beginning of the week. When patients are forced to wait in the ER even after being admitted, it is referred to as “boarding,” which takes up valuable ER bed space and increases the wait time. 

When the wait time in emergency rooms is too long, patients leave, just like Ward did on the night of her death. On average, patients spend an average of 4 hours, 44 minutes in Froedtert’s ER department before being admitted to the hospital. Between October 2017 and October 2018, about 3% of patients left Froedtert’s emergency room without being seen. Nationally, that number is 2%. The attorney representing the Ward family reported that his team is making a wrongful death claim in light of Tashonna’s passing. If you have experienced medical issues, or a loved one has died due to extreme delays in emergency rooms, you may be entitled to compensation. The compassionate attorneys at Spiros Law, P.C. are experienced in handling wrongful death and medical malpractice claims, and are available to answer any questions you may have regarding your situation. Contact us today at (815) 929-9292 to receive a free consultation.