Patient dies after waiting 5+ hours in hospital’s emergency department, regulators say

Medicare regulators confirm woman coded in ER waiting room after waiting 5+ hours for care
Published: Aug. 25, 2022 at 1:15 PM CDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT/Gray News) – Federal regulators believe a woman in North Carolina died in the waiting room of a hospital’s emergency department, according to a report they issued.

The report said an investigation revealed a 77-year-old patient went to New Hanover Regional Medical Center on June 6 for “complaints of vomiting, weakness, unable to stand, fever at home and had a history of rectal cancer receiving chemotherapy.”

According to the document obtained by WECT, the patient initially met with triage at 8:43 p.m. and was given an urgent designation at that time but was told to sit in the waiting room.

Findings of the investigation revealed she was not reassessed until June 7 at 2 a.m., almost five hours after her initial vitals were taken, the report stated.

According to the report, the woman coded at 2:04 a.m. and was pronounced dead at 4:25 a.m. after family members decided to withdraw life support measures.

At the time a nurse told WECT the problem was not necessarily a shortage of beds at the hospital, but a shortage of nurses to staff those beds.

She said entire halls in the hospital had been blocked off for use because of staffing shortages.

WECT was told that at one point the hospital was short about 400 nurses.

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), inspectors were at the hospital June 21-29 to investigate complaints about the patient’s death, among other issues.

Their inspection prompted federal regulators to notify hospital officials the Medicare contract would be terminated on Aug. 12 because of deficiencies.

Officials reinspected the hospital in early August, however, and recommended the hospital be returned to good standing with CMS, WECT reported.

Whether CMS will accept that recommendation remains to be seen.

“We are currently reviewing the revisit findings and do not have a set date for the review to be completed. More information will be available once that review is complete,” a spokesperson for the federal agency said.

A Novant Health Spokesperson issued the following statement in response to the release of the survey:

We’re disappointed that patients experiencing delayed care led to the CMS survey on June 21. We respect and value the review process and the additional insight it provides, and we’re glad that following our August 8 reinspection, CMS found we were in compliance with Medicare guidelines. It’s been a challenging few months at the hospital and we’ve been working diligently to improve and recruit additional clinical staff. Thanks to those efforts by our dedicated team members, wait times have decreased, more beds have reopened, and our clinical teams are getting more members every week.