Woman Convulses and Dies, Ignored, in Waiting Room of New York City Hospital
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If this story doesn’t disgust you, I don’t know what will:
It was a nightmare captured on surveillance video. A woman who had waited nearly 24 hours to be seen in a Brooklyn public hospital collapsed, fell face-down on the floor, convulsed and for nearly an hour — while several hospital staff members looked at her and one staff member even prodded her with her foot — received no aid. At some point during that time, she died.
The New York Civil Liberties Union has been sounding the alarm about New York City hospitals for some time now, calling the emergency room and inpatient units at Kings County Hospital “a chamber of filth, decay, indifference and danger.” It’s disgusting that someone had to die before the city bothered doing anything about it.
And this is just the one that we know about because the video was released on YouTube. The callous disregard that the hospital employees showed to Esmin Green is not possibly a one-time occurrence. Ms. Green was a poor, mentally ill woman of color. She apparently didn’t matter one bit to the employees at the hospital who were supposed to be giving her care. I would bet everything I own that she is not the first “unimportant” patient to receive that kind of treatment — she is just the first to have her death broadcast on YouTube, and so she is the first that the city cannot turn a blind eye towards.
A state agency, the New York State Mental Hygiene Legal Service, filed a lawsuit a year ago, calling the psychiatric center “a chamber of filth, decay, indifference and danger.”
Patients, the suit said, “are subjected to overcrowded and squalid conditions often accompanied by physical abuse and unnecessary and punitive injections of mind-altering drugs.”
“From the moment a person steps through the doors,” it added, “she is stripped of her freedom and dignity and literally forced to fight for the essentials of life.”
The suit was especially critical of the hospital’s emergency ward, saying it is so poorly staffed that patients are often marooned there for days while they wait to be evaluated.
Sometimes, the unit runs out of chairs, according to the lawsuit, forcing people to wait on foam mats or on the waiting room floor. The suit also claims that bathrooms are filthy and filled with flies, and that patients who complain too loudly are sometimes handcuffed, beaten or injected with psychotropic drugs.
In case this doesn’t make it clear, mental health (and health care in general) is a feminist issue. This should appall and enrage all of us.