Homeless patient death calls for hospital response policy changes

Following an investigation into the death of a homeless man at California's Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, hospital officials said they are changing their policies for people found on hospital grounds who might need medical help.

The investigation revealed that there was a 25-minute gap between the time hospital workers encountered Michael Torres, a homeless man, and the time they called 911, reports The Press Democrat.

On Sept. 19, an ambulance brought Torres to Memorial Hospital with "tremors" reportedly from alcohol withdrawal after a liquor store refused to sell him alcohol because the owner thought Torres was intoxicated, according to the article. Minutes after arrival, hospital medical staff triaged the patient. Hospital officials said Torres received the "appropriate level of care."

He was released from the emergency room, and on Sept. 20, Torres was discovered on the outskirts of hospital grounds alive and awake, Memorial Hospital CEO Kevin Klockenga said in a statement.

"As an organization, we did not act as expeditiously as we could have to obtain ambulance assistance for Mr. Torres..." Klockenga said. He added, "As a result, it is too early to make any determination as to whether or not there was anything we could have done to prevent his death."

Following Torres's death, Memorial Hospital made policy changes, including retraining hospital staff to alert others if a person outside the hospital is in possible distress, guiding staff in getting necessary assistance for persons in distress on hospital grounds, and conducting mock drills.

A family member said the preliminary autopsy report indicated Torres may have died of pneumonia or swelling of the arteries and heart, although the full report from the forensic pathologist could take up to four months to complete, according to the article.

Under health care reform, the 57 current recuperative centers in the country will expand with even more programs to help homeless patients recover and take their medication.

For more information:
- read The Press Democrat article

Related Articles:
Hospital accused of patient dumping, educates ER staff
Pilot addresses root cause of illness-patients' finances
Recuperative centers help homeless patients post-discharge
Hospitalized homeless patients may incur higher costs
MinuteClinic's Sussman: Despite medical home efforts, a lot of 'medical homelessness'