A computer issue is to blame for at least one family being turned away from the South Central Kansas Medical Center emergency room last week, according to hospital officials.
The family went to the Emergency Department (ED) around 4:30 a.m. July 30, but was turned away without being seen by a nurse or doctor.
Kristen King said she dropped off her 18-year-old daughter at the door and parked her car, but when she was walking in, her daughter already was back out the SCKMC door.
“She said that the receptionist told her the server was down and the (ED) was closed,” King said in an interview.
King’s daughter, Josephine Gonzalez, has Type 1 diabetes. She had a bout of illness related to the disease approximately two months ago.
King noticed similar symptoms last week and decided to take Gonzalez to SCKMC as a result.
“I went in and explained that she was very sick, and based on her earlier illness, needed to be seen ASAP. The receptionist explained that she was sorry, that they can’t accept her, but the server was down and IT was working on it, and we’d have to go somewhere else,” King said.
There was no offer to call an ambulance to the ED, either, according to King, even though a federal law called the Emergency Medical Treatment And Labor Act (EMTALA) states a medical facility either must provide emergency care or transport to another facility that can provide that care.
“The receptionist gave me some vomit bags and I took (my daughter) to William Newton Hospital (in Winfield),” King said.
By the time the pair reached William Newton, Gonzalez’s condition had become much worse.
“When lab (results) came back, she was in the early stages of diabetic ketoacidosis,” King said.
Ketoacidosis is a serious complication of diabetes that “can lead to loss of consciousness and, eventually, it can be fatal,” according to the Mayo Clinic.
“(William Newton) arranged for transport to ICU in Wichita, where she remained until (Aug. 1),” King said. Gonzalez is now recovering at home.
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Later that same day, King posted about her experience on Facebook. She was then contacted by a member of the SCKMC Board of Trustees.
“She contacted me and apologized, and stated that she was trying to figure out what happened,” King said. “When we got home (that) afternoon, she called me and asked if I would come in and speak to her and the hospital lawyer. They wanted to hear from me exactly what happened. I spoke with them, and they stated that they were on their way to a board meeting and this would be discussed.”
King said she appreciated the SCKMC board member for being so proactive about the situation.
“The two board members I spoke to were unhappy that we were turned away and stated that they were trying to get to the bottom of what happened. We all agreed that we want to ensure that this does not happen again,” she said.
“I do want to point out that I was going to address this matter when my daughter was healthy, (but) the board member sought me out before I could contact them. They are very concerned and do not want this to happen again.”
SCKMC attorney Otis Morrow sent a statement to Ark City Daily Bytes about this incident on Aug. 6.
It states that Kansas risk management laws prohibit SCKMC from addressing the specifics of the event.
“Our primary goal is to provide medical services to those appearing at the Med Center,” the statement reads.
“However, it should be noted that at the time … the incident in question occurred, our facility was experiencing a computer outage, restricting our ability to physically enter portions of the building and preventing access to our computer systems, which include our electronic medical records and radiology systems.
“We have policies and procedures in place for such outages. For our patients, care was provided and continued, including surgeries, newborn deliveries and emergency patients.”
Morrow said SCKMC is working to learn from the incident.
“With every unexpected situation, we find ways to improve. We are currently reviewing our procedures to make any necessary updates, as well as mandatory training for staff. The computer issue is also under investigation and assessment,” his statement continues.
“We apologize to any citizen that may have been inconvenienced by this computer incident.”