Donald Siefken, 64, says he was stranded outside of the Seattle Veterans Affairs hospital with a broken foot. He couldn’t walk the 10 feet to the emergency room, but when he called the hospital for help, it apparently told him to call 911 and the operator hung up on him.
Siefken broke his foot while getting ready to drive his wife to the airport for a red eye flight on Feb. 27 and, after he dropped her off, he went straight to the hospital, where he called for assistance. “My pain level was a 10 on a scale of 10,” he told the Seattle Times. “And they just hung up on me.”
Chad Hutson, spokesman for the Veteran Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System, initially defended the hospital. “I know it sounds counterintuitive because someone is just 10 feet away, but it is our policy to do that,” he said. “Our policy is no different than Harborview or Swedish or other hospitals in Washington.”
He added, “It has to do with liability and to make sure, like in this case, that the right personnel are there to safely extract the person from the vehicle.”
The hospital later changed its mind. “After a complete review regarding this Veteran’s visit to the VA Puget Sound Seattle campus emergency room, we have determined we did not do the right thing to ensure the Veteran had assistance into the emergency room,” Seattle Veterans Affairs hospital said in a written statement.
It went on to say that emergency room staff “should have called the appropriate staff to come and assist the patient, ensuring he made it into the emergency room safely.”
Dr. William Campbell, the hospital’s chief of staff, later apologized.
Siefken’s foot hasn’t healed yet. “They said they’re sorry and they’re going to change things so this doesn’t happen again,” he said. “That’s all I really wanted.”
Image: Screen Capture via King 5