I am becoming more convinced that the U.S. is losing whatever heart and soul that it may have had. It seems as if the social fabric that built this nation is coming apart. I know that the U.S. position in the world as a great super-power is beginning to wane.... but have we become a third world nation already? I guess the inner-cities across the country have always had these third world problems, but the story of Edith Rodriguez just blew my mind.... With all that I have seen in this life (which has been a lot).... perhaps I should not be surprised, but this story is just mind boggling.
Those who have been paying attention to the healthcare situation understand that the U.S. health system is in crisis. It has been in a slow motion dive for a long time. From time to time we hear about some crazy story about a long wait in an ER, or how low income communities are being underserved. But no case collectively personifies these problems better than the case of Edith Rodriguez, and her experience at the "Historically Black" MLK hospital in Los Angeles- a Public Hospital responsible for serving low income residents. MLK has a history of problems with service and quality. The reputation of this facility is so bad that it is sometimes referred to as the hospital where people check in.... but don't check out.
Edith's last day on earth was literally Hell. The nightmare started some days earlier...when she went to MLK with stomach symptoms but was sent home .... and she was later sent home at least one other time...before her final day.
On May 9th, 2007 she went to the ER because the same symptoms had gotten considerably worse. Despite obviously needing immediate treatment.... the staff of MLK Hospital refused to help her. She would eventually collapse on the floor of the ER....but the staff still refused to help.
When she began vomiting blood all over the floor.... she STILL received no help from the hospital staff... A member of her family eventually had to dial 911 to see if an ambulance could respond to take her to a real hospital, but the caller was met with indifference. A few minutes later, another patient made a call to 911, but she too was met with indifference....and not only that....the 911 operator was down right rude and ignorant to the caller....telling the caller (in so many words) that she had no business making the call and that her call was not an emergency.
See Story and Video From ABC News (video in top right corner).
The nightmare didn't end there.... Mrs. Rodriguez continued to vomit blood....and scream in pain.... obviously needing immediate care, but the staff continued to stand by and watch as Janitors quietly mopped up the mess around her. This went on for nearly an hour.
But the final insult came when the family summoned police to the scene. But instead of getting help for the dying woman.... the meatheads from the Police Department arrested Rodriguez (obviously a critical patient at this point) on a warrant. She died as they were wheeling her out of the ER.
This case exposes the sick underside of America.... and it highlights trouble in so many different areas...that I don't know where to start with this.
The first thing that comes to mind is.... if this hospital was this bad all of this time, why was it allowed to remain open? Because the patients were mostly poor and black? Did that make it acceptable for so long? It seems to me that something should have been done about this facility a long time ago.
It also shows a complete breakdown in basic health services. This collapse has been in progress for years..... in slow motion. But now the situation is really beginning to take a toll. It's not just poor people anymore. I visited the ER of a suburban hospital in St. Louis a few years ago (a hospital considered to be pretty good) and I waited for 3 hours before I was seen by anyone.
The public hospitals that serve the inner-cities are much worse and have been dealing with problems of poor funding, low salaries, incompetence, understaffing, low morale and other problems for years.
Edith Rodriguez didn't just pass away on May 9th...she was killed. And hopefully she didn't die in vain. Perhaps some positive changes will come out of this story....and I could go on and on about all of the problems in American society and in healthcare that were highlighted in this case... (a sick police culture of indifference to poor people, police tunnel-vision, poor emergency preparedness, inadequate healthcare for the poor and for all Americans, the lack of nurses and good doctors and hospitals, the need for more laws to protect citizens from State sponsored killings like this one, etc)... But this should be another wake up call to America...telling America to get its priorities in order. Any country that doesn't invest in its people is bound to fail from the inside out. Will America finally heed the wake up call? And how many more wake up calls do we need? I'm not too optimistic. I don't know what it will finally take to get this country to wake up from its coma.
Additional Report from Kaiser
Pressure to Shut Down MLK Hospital
Previous Posts On The Healthcare Crisis
U.S. Health System Near Breaking Point
Illinois Woman Dies Waiting In ER
Veteran Dies Searching for Healthcare