The American Hospital Association said hospitals across the country are re-examining their trauma-care policies after inaction by emergency personnel at a Chicago hospital was blamed for a teen-ager's death.
Common sense should have prevailed over policy in Ravenswood Hospital Medical Center's decision not to bring a bleeding gunshot victim into its emergency room for treatment, the AHA said.
Christopher Sercye, 15, died May 16 after being denied treatment at the North Side Chicago hospital. Sercye had been shot in the abdomen while playing basketball in an alley behind Ravenswood. Emergency room personnel called an ambulance to transport Sercye to a trauma center for treatment but refused to leave the hospital to treat him, citing hospital policy. Sercye lay dying within 35 feet of Ravenswood's emergency room.
On May 18 Ravenswood officials said the emergency department employees had followed hospital policy, which required that they only treat patients in the emergency room. The hospital revoked the policy later that day. "I believe the policy did not work in the spirit in which it was written more than a decade ago, and therefore I am taking immediate action to change it," said John Blair, Ravenswood's president and chief executive officer.
Ravenswood officials said the point of the policy had been to give priority to patients already in the emergency department and to prepare for the arrival of others needing care.
The AHA said last week that it was inundated with calls from hospitals around the country wondering what to do in such instances.
Richard Wade, AHA senior vice president for communications, said common sense is more important than any policy. "Hospitals need to make sure people at the front lines have the flexibility to do the right thing for patients," Wade said. "(Hospitals) need to make absolutely certain nobody makes a judgment that would cause them to take a patient away from the emergency room."
Despite Ravenswood's apologies, the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Chicago City Council are considering possible sanctions against the hospital, including charges of "patient dumping" in violation of federal law.