Hospital: No one died in ER waiting room, no investigators on campus

Hospital: No one died in ER waiting room, no investigators on campus
Published: Jun. 16, 2022 at 5:29 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - An update on a story out of Novant Health New Hanover Regional Medical Center. Thursday afternoon, hospital officials expanded on a previous statement responding to claims that a woman had died in the Emergency Room lobby after waiting for hours to be seen. The hospital now says no one died in the ER waiting room this month, and there have not been investigators from the state on the hospital campus interviewing staff.

On Wednesday, the hospital’s statement had been more vague, indicating something may have happened but they couldn’t elaborate due to patient privacy requirements.

“How this story has been described publicly is not how things occurred, but in respect to the family we can’t comment on a specific situation at this time,” the NHRMC statement said in part.

News that no one died while waiting for care likely comes as a relief to many, but WECT continues to receive complaints from viewers about extremely long wait times in the Emergency Room.

72-year-old Patricia Bryant went to the NHRMC ER with pneumonia on January 24. That was a Monday. Her family says she remained in the Emergency Room until Friday, when a room finally became available, but by that point, her health had deteriorated so much, she died.

Brittany Kelly started caring for her mother full-time after she developed early onset dementia, and called 911 in January when Bryant got pneumonia. After getting to the hospital, Kelly says Bryant remained in the emergency room for the next 5 days.

“For someone to wait that long, being high risk during a pandemic, that seems a little crazy to me. But that’s what we were told. There’s just no beds available,” Kelly recalled.

Doctors began treating Bryant for pneumonia the first day, but Kelly says in an Emergency Room setting, her care was disjointed, with different nurses coming in and and out, and no one seeming to be on top of her case.

“She didn’t understand what was going on, why she was being held. She wanted to go somewhere quiet where she could try to get better. And that just wasn’t an option,” Kelly added. Nurses tell WECT the long waits are happening because Novant Health is so short staffed. They say there are empty beds, but not enough nurses to man them.

After five days of treatment, Kelly says her mom was still in the ER and still not getting better. She told the doctor she just couldn’t catch her breath. When she had checked into the ER on Monday, the family says she tested negative for COVID. But by Friday, Bryant had COVID, and took a turn for the worse. She was taken to the ICU, where she died a few days later.

“Maybe if they weren’t so burnout, or short staffed, they could have caught what was going on sooner, maybe changed their course of treatment. Maybe if she didn’t sit in the ER room for a week, maybe she might not have gotten COVID. And we wouldn’t be in this situation,” Kelly said.

WECT has reached out to hospital officials about Patricia Bryant’s case and the hospital has yet to respond. Given privacy requirements, the hospital typically does not comment on cases such as this.

Novant Health officials say they are dealing with the same nursing shortage that hospitals are facing all over the country, and they are trying to fill those positions. They ask people who do not have true medical emergencies to stay out of the emergency room, to free up resources for patients who have life-threatening illnesses.

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