A four-year-old girl with a serious heart defect died because of a delay in transferring her from a local hospital to a major medical center which was only two hours away. The little girl was in her local hospital for severe breathing problems caused by her heart defect. She was seen by her doctor during the afternoon, but after dinner her condition began to deteriorate. Nurses called the doctor several times over a five-hour period before he agreed to come into the hospital. After ordering an urgent and immediate transfer to a major medical center only two hours away, the doctor left the hospital.
The on-call EMS transfer crew was scheduled to go off duty in three hours, and because the round trip to the major medical center was four hours, they chose not to transfer the child but to wait for the crew change nearly three hours later. Since her doctor had left the hospital, he was unaware of the delay, and during the three-hour period the child continued to deteriorate. Approximately one hour after the crew change, the transfer began, and as a result, the little girl arrived at the major medical center at 6:30 a.m. instead of 2:00 a.m. By the time she arrived there, she was nonresponsive, barely breathing, and she died within two hours. Her doctor initially refused to admit responsibility as did the hospital. After 2½ years of litigation revealed that the doctor initially had refused to come to the hospital and then after coming to the hospital chose to leave before transfer and that the hospital’s transport team delayed the transfer while waiting for a “crew change,” the case was settled for $1.775 million.
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