Auburn Community Hospital cited; witness says incident ‘mishandled’

Auburn Community Hospital is under scrutiny again for their handling of an incident that played out last month at the facility.

According to officials Auburn Community Hospital called 911 and had an ambulance take an injured woman to a hospital that was 30 miles away.

The woman had jumped two stories off its parking garage.

A witness has added some context to the incident from his perspective.

The entire incident resulted in the hospital being cited for violating an anti-dumping law that prevents hospitals from transferring patients to other hospitals without doing a medical screening exam to make sure they are stable for transfer.

Here’s how the incident happened, according to reporting thus far.

A 24-year-old woman and her father were at the ER during the morning hours of April 14th. The father was in the process of registering his daughter when she ran out of the waiting room and jumped from the second story of the parking garage.

The patient was alert and complaining of pain in her chest when hospital officials found her. She was lying on her back in the parking garage driveway with a security guard and her father by her side.

The ER staffer performed a neurological exam but didn’t document it.

The patient, who has not been identified was placed in a neck brace and sent to Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse.

A witness who spoke with FingerLakes1.com exclusively says the entire incident was “mishandled.”

Richard Schillawski, who was at the ER check-in desk as it all unfolded. “I didn’t see her jump, but I saw her and her father come into the ER. She was wrapped in a blanket and her father was talking about the 24-year-old’s depression.”

He said just a few minutes later the girl vanished and a nurse was overheard saying “Oh my god, I think she jumped.”

Within seconds another employee rushed into the ER and confirmed what the other nurse had said. Schillawski says that’s where things became ‘mismanaged’.

According to Schillawski, nurses struggled with how to react to the situation. “They were running around like chickens with their heads cut off,” he recounted. “I went down to see if I could help because everyone else was standing around,” added Schillawski.

“All we can do is call 9-1-1,” said one nurse, according to the witness.

Later that morning, when he arrived home from the hospital – he took to Facebook to voice his concerns about the handling of the incident.

It was later that day when Schillawski received a call from a representative of Auburn Community Hospital. He explained that the rep he talked to ask that the post be taken down. “They promised me the incident was ‘under investigation’ and that it would be handled appropriately.”

“I took the post down out of good faith,” he added. “I didn’t think they would handle the situation like they did.”

Schillawski also questions why the public is only finding out about the incident now. “I heard very little about this after, and the way the hospital dealt with my posting to Facebook made me feel like it was being swept under the rug.”

A state Health Department inspection done on behalf of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services found Auburn’s response to the emergency situation also violated the hospital’s policies, according to Syracuse.com.

The hospital was cited for:

  • Not providing a medical screening exam in the ER;
  • Not training staff correctly on how t o comply with Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act rules;
  • Failing to enter information about the patient into ER logs; and
  • Failing to document the risks associated with transferring the patient.

According to Syracuse.com, Scott Berlucchi, Auburn’s president and CEO, said hospital staff responded immediately to the incident and provided “potentially lifesaving emergency care” to the patient.

Berlucchi even called the care received as ‘potentially lifesaving’. He also acknowledged that the hospital failed to meet requirements set down by the federal government.

Others said the situation was handled appropriately and with ‘common sense’.

Lon Fricano, director of operations at TLC told the Auburn Citizen that there are larger issues at play. “Less than 40 minutes after that call, she was in the proper facility,” he told them. “Everything was done right. No one in the loop on this issue would dispute that.”

Fricano also added to the Citizen that the citation is a misapplication of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act. “The problem is the feds think their rules trump not only any state or local rules, but even common sense>”

This isn’t the first time the facility has come under fire, though. Last year, two unannounced visits revealed that staff were not following prescribed procedures as it pertained to hygiene and drug administration.

The report revealed that hand hygiene was not performed as required and the hand hygiene policy and procedure was not adequate, personal protective equipment was not worn appropriately, expired medications were available for patient use, cleaning supplies were not stored appropriately and equipment was not cleaned between patients.

It also noted that trash and soiled linen receptacles were stored in a public corridor outside the operating room and that humidity and temperature were not within acceptable ranges.

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