GW Hospital diverts patient

Claire Fidelman’s ambulance was a few blocks away from the GW Hospital when it turned around and headed across town to Georgetown University Hospital after she was hit by a car in front of Francis Scott Key Hall Sept. 27.

The driver said `We can’t go’ and made a U-turn, said Fidelman’s friend Karen Morchower, who rode in the passenger seat of the ambulance. Morchower said she overheard the radio transmission redirecting the emergency call to Georgetown after officials at the GW Hospital said they had no room.

Fidelman was treated for head injuries and released within a few hours from Georgetown’s hospital.

(Emergency Medical Services) makes the decision as to which hospital they choose to take a patient, said Barbara Mitchell, manager of the Department of Emergency Medicine at GW Hospital. GW Hospital was on `diversion’ that night, which is a rare occurrence.

Hospitals notify EMS when they have a shortage of beds, a situation called diversion, Mitchell said.

Hospitals throughout the metropolitan area use the terms `diversion’ or even `closure’ for temporary situations such as operating rooms filled to capacity, a shortage of critical care beds, or a volume of patients being treated related to a disaster such as a fire in the Metro or exposure to hazardous materials, she said.

Fidelman said she did not find out why she was turned away from GW’s hospital until after she had been treated.

It was taking a really long time to get to the hospital, she said. We can walk (to the GW Hospital) in five minutes.

Fidelman said her situation warranted emergency care. When Morchower arrived on the scene of the accident, she said that her friend was bleeding from the head all over the ground.

This was a definite emergency, Fidelman said. There was a time issue, they had no idea how hurt I was.

Fidelman and her Thurston Hall friends said it seemed obvious that she would be treated at the nearest hospital.

Even the (ambulance) driver thought it was ridiculous to not go to GW, Morchower said.

If Fidelman’s condition required a longer stay, she would not have had the support she would need from friends, Morchower said.

When something like this happens, you need support, said Jessica Jones, Fidelman’s roommate. Especially since all her friends are here (at GW) and her parents are in Massachusetts, we should be able to go see her.

I don’t understand how you pay $36,000 a year, and you get hit by a car in the middle of the road, but are denied from your own hospital, Morchower said.

Jones agreed.

I understand that they were full, but if it’s one of our own students, they should get priority, she said.

Mitchell said that students do not receive priority over other patients at the hospital.

We treat students as we treat any emergency patient, Mitchell said.

The GW Hospital has 499 beds, only 321 of which are currently in operation. Georgetown University Hospital, which was rated one of America’s 50 Best Hospitals in 10 categories this year by U.S. News and World Report, has 535 beds, 407 of which are active.

The new GW Hospital, which is scheduled for completion in 2002, will hold 458 beds, 371 of which will be operational, according to the hospital’s Web site.

Fidelman and her friends said that they felt the incident of hospital diversion was a typical quality of GW.

Even when you’re dying you still have to go through the red tape, Morchower said.

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