As many of our readers know, Danville (VA) Regional Medical Center (DRMC) has been a news topic for quite some time….most of it for problems with the delivery of health care. Well, here we go again!
It appears that DRMC is being sued in federal court for its Emergency Room staff”s failure to provide competent medical care. The case, Everett W. Scruggs v. Danville Regional Medical Center, involves among other issues, an allegation that the hospital Emergency Room did not provide competent medical care as required by federal law called the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA). The EMTALA statute imposes two primary obligations on hospitals. First, it requires that when an individual seeks medical treatment in a hospital’s emergency room, the hospital must provide for an appropriate medical screening examination . . . to determine whether or not an emergency medical condition exists. Second, if the screening examination reveals the presence of an emergency medical condition, the hospital must stabilize the medical condition before transferring or discharging the patient.
The lawsuit alleges Scruggs arrived at DRMC Emergency Department at 1:50 a.m. on September 3, 2006 complaining of prolonged dry heaves over the previous two days. Upon arrival, Scruggs was triaged by a registered nurse and prioritized as a “non-urgent” patient based upon the nurse’s triage screening examination. The nurse’s triage report did not include Scrugg’s diabetic ketoacidosis condition or his history of diabetes.
The Emergency Room doctor did not examine Scruggs for over 11 hours after he arrived in the ER. That physician ordered various tests but, unfortunately, Scruggs was found unresponsive and in cardiac arrest approximately 20 minutes later.
The hospital argued that its Emergency Department had meet the requirements of EMTLA as a result of the nurse’s triage assessment. Thankfully, the trial court disagreed!