Unattended ER patient dies at Pennsylvania hospital

A patient died at WellSpan York (Pa.) Hospital's emergency department after being left unattended for more than an hour, according to a state inspection report cited by York Daily Record.

The man arrived by ambulance to the ER on Aug. 16, complaining of nausea and dizziness. Staff members screened and triaged the patient upon his arrival. However, staff members marked the patient as "left without being seen" after three unsuccessful attempts of identifying him in the ER between 10:25 a.m. and 12:05 p.m. Staff members found the patient unresponsive in a wheelchair around 12:25 p.m., and he was pronounced dead at 1:31 p.m.

State inspectors visited the hospital in late August and deemed the facility out of compliance with Pennsylvania's Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error Act.

"In this instance, we did not meet the high standards to which we hold ourselves every day," Allan Birenberg, MD, vice president of medical affairs at WellSpan York Hospital, said in a statement cited by York Daily Record. "We have reviewed what happened and taken immediate steps to correct any issues which contributed to this event."

Dr. Birenberg said the hospital is redesigning its processes to ensure high-quality, timely emergency care for patients. Actions include reassigning nurses to ensure 24/7 coverage in triage areas and requiring nurses to reassess patients in the waiting area when length of stay exceeds one hour.

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