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Hospital miscommunication costs Port Huron man his life

ST segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) is a blockage in one of the heart’s major arteries, resulting in a very serious type of heart attack. A STEMI is a life-threatening emergency, and any delays in receiving medical care can mean the difference between life and death.

Unfortunately, medical professionals cannot always be relied on to respond properly to an emergency. Any mistake can cost patients their lives.

Tragedy in Port Huron

In a recent case in Port Huron, a male patient began presenting symptoms of a heart attack, so his family took him to an urgent care center near his home. At the facility, the attending nurse practitioner performed an electrocardiogram (ECG) and correctly identified his condition as a STEMI. The facility then arranged for his transfer to McLaren Port Huron Hospital. En route to McLaren, the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) personnel performed their own ECG, which also confirmed a STEMI.

However, upon arrival at the emergency room, the staff failed to immediately take the patient to the catheterization laboratory (cath lab) to undergo a lifesaving angioplasty. Instead, the cardiologist opted to take another, less urgent case to the cath lab.

Tragically, despite the fact that another staff cardiologist was available on call and that other cath lab facilities existed, no one placed a call to the back-up cardiologist and requested that they take the patient in for an emergency angioplasty. Consequently, the patient suffered a preventable death.

Finger pointing

At deposition, the cardiologist blamed the ER physician for not alerting them to the patient’s arrival and the fact that a STEMI was suspected. The ER physician, in turn, blamed the cardiologist. No one accepted responsibility.

This type of response is completely unacceptable. If a patient comes into a hospital emergency department with a STEMI, the standard of care requires that they be taken to the cath lab as soon as possible. In the midst of acute cardiac crisis, it is imperative that there be clear and unambiguous communication and cooperation among staff members to ensure that patients receive appropriate care.

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