Hackensack apologizes after hospital staff kicked out seizure patient's service dog

Hackensack Meridian Health in Edison, N.J., issued an apology after Brick, N.J.-based Ocean Medical Center staff forced a seizure patient's trained service dog to leave the facility, reports nj.com.

Here are four things to know:

1. Nicole Sorchinski sought care at Ocean Medical Center's emergency department Oct. 6 after she experienced a seizure, which her service dog, Nala, detected. Shortly after arriving at the facility, a nurse told the 27-year-old patient her service dog could not be at the hospital.

"[The nurse] said that Nala wasn't welcome here. She pointed at her watch and said, 'You have 15 minutes or I'm calling animal control and she's going to the pound for the night,'" Ms. Sorchinski told nj.com.

2. A friend came to pick up the dog, and Ms. Sorchinski left the hospital without receiving medical attention.

"They weren't even concerned about my seizure, they were concerned about the dog," she told nj.com. "I felt unsafe, like if this is how they're going to treat my service dog, how will they treat me in my care?"

3. The Americans with Disabilities Act generally requires hospitals to allow patients with a disability to keep a service animal with them in the facility. However, hospitals can ask animals to leave if they're near immunocompromised patients or if the owner is unable to care for them.

4. Hackensack Meridian Health, which operates Ocean Medical Center, said it is reviewing the situation to ensure staff members are following proper service animal protocols.

"We are deeply sorry for the experience expressed by our patient while visiting our emergency department," the health system said in a statement to nj.com. "While our goal is to keep patients and their service animals together whenever possible, there are situations where our team members must focus on providing the highest quality care for our patients. During this time, we believe it's important to ensure there is someone that can care for the service animal while we provide care to our patients."

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