St. Elizabeth’s Hospital (Boston) ER: wait 0 minutes to be seen, 9 days to be treated

By | January 28, 2010
January 26, 2010

John Holiver, President
St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center
736 Cambridge Street
Brighton, MA 02135

Dear Mr. Holiver,

My wife, A… Kamens, was treated in your emergency room (ER) early in the morning on Sunday, January 17.

The doctor who treated her told her to seek follow-up care with her primary care physician (PCP), Dr. C… L…. He said he would call Dr. L… that day, but my wife should wait until Tuesday to contact her, because by then all the test results would be available in my wife’s electronic record, where Dr. L… would be able to access them.

Not only did the ER doctor not call Dr. L… on Sunday as promised, he never called her at all.

Not only were my wife’s test results not available by Tuesday as promised, they were not available until January 26, nine days after my wife’s ER visit.

According to Dr. L…’s office, St. Elizabeth’s never gave them a straight answer about why the test results were taking so long. Not only that, but they seemed to be giving the office the runaround, repeatedly telling them to call the next day at a specific time and ask to speak to so-and-so, only to be told when they called at that time that so-and-so was not available.

To be blunt, this is pathetic. I’d be surprised if it’s not also a HIPAA violation – failing to give a patient and her providers prompt access to medical records required for urgent care. My wife has been walking around in pain unnecessarily for nine extra days, with her PCP unable to initiate treatment because she did not have access to the test results necessary to diagnose and treat my wife’s condition.

Do you think my wife’s treatment lived up to your mission of “delivering the highest quality care with compassion and respect”?

I’ve got a great idea for an improvement you can make to the billboard across the street from your ER:

Billboard sign

What do you think?

Here is what my wife and I need from you now:

  • confirmation that you have investigated this incident and confirmed the details I’ve related;
  • a written acknowledgment that it is not acceptable that:
    • the doctor who treated my wife in the ER never called her PCP as he said he would;
    • it took nine days for you to make the results of my wife’s tests available to her PCP; and
    • your hospital failed to give honest, accurate information about when the results would be available;
  • a written apology to my wife for making her suffer unnecessarily and to Dr. L… for making her and her staff waste their time; and
  • a written description of the steps you will be taking to ensure that in the future:
    • doctors in the ER follow up promptly with the patient’s PCP when they say they will;
    • results of tests performed in the ER are accessible to patients and their PCPs promptly; and
    • PCPs are given honest, accurate information about when test results will be available.

My wife has affixed her signature to the bottom of this letter and thereby authorizes you to access her records to investigate this incident, to disclose the contents of those records to me, and to discuss this incident orally and in writing with me, without restriction, as if I were her in the context of HIPAA privacy rules.


Jonathan Kamens

A… Kamens

CC: Dr. C… L…
CC: Appeals and Grievances Department
Tufts Health Plan
705 Mount Auburn Street
Post Office Box 9193
Watertown, MA 02471-9193
CC: Division of Health Care Quality
Massachusetts Department of Public Health
99 Chauncy Street
Boston, MA 02111-1212
CC: Office for Civil Rights
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
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5 thoughts on “St. Elizabeth’s Hospital (Boston) ER: wait 0 minutes to be seen, 9 days to be treated

  1. Pingback: St. Elizabeth’s evades, lies and libels others rather than simply apologizing « Something better to do

  2. Ann

    I just want to say that I do not recommend to anyone to send any family member to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital. My father died at St. Elizabeth’s on Saturday, February 6th, 2010 after what my family and I feel was absolutley horrible care.
    I am a student doctor and I felt that my father’s medical treatment at St. Elizabeth’s was the worse I have ever encountered. For example, my father’s feeding tube was stopped for days without my mom’s permission. Then on the Saturday before my dad died, the doctor in the Intensive care tried to discahrge my dad out of the hospital with a blood pressure of 75/35. That is crazy! Then when I complained about that, the hospital administrator made two security people from St. Elizabeth’s escort all visitors to my father onto the RICU unit and stay with us while we visited my dying father. There were so many things. Then on the day before my dad died, my mom and I requested my father’s medical records but the attending hospital blocked the record from being released. I think that everyone should be aware of how horrible St. Elizabeth’s is. Ann

  3. jik Post author

    Hi Ann,

    I am so sorry for what you are going through. It sounds terrible, certainly more painful than the problems my wife recently experienced.

    It might be helpful for you to contact your father’s primary care physician and ask him to assist you with ensuring that your father receives the appropriate care from the hospital. Your father’s doctor should be able to access and review the records of his treatment at the hospital. If, after doing so, he believes that the care your father has received is correct, then he should be able to help you to understand it. If he agrees with you that there were issues, then he should be able to support the requests you have made to the hospital and help you make the hospital abide by your wishes.

    Another course of action you should consider is contacting the St. Elizabeth’s patient advocate at 617-789-2040. The PA will serve as a mediator and facilitator between you and your mother and your father’s caregivers at the hospital and help to achieve the goal that both you and St. Elizabeth’s share, i.e., providing your father with the best possible care.

    Best of luck to you and your parents in this difficult time.

    – Jonathan Kamens

  4. Ann

    Dear Mr. Kamens:

    My father is a patient at St. Elizabeth’s currently and myself and my family are having a terrible time trying to deal with this hospital. There have been many issues regarding my father’s care at St. Elizabeth’s and myself and my family are very unhappy with the care that he has received there. Now because we voiced our concerns about my father’s care by expressing our desire to have a lawyer send a letter to St. Elizabeth’s on our behalf, the administrator of St. Elizabeth’s and the attending doctor has ordered that myself and all members of my family have security present with us at all times while we are visiting my dying father. Neither myself nor any member of my family have ever done anything at all that would warrant that we have a security escort with us at St. Elizabeth’s. This is causing my family complete emotional duress and harm as a result. If I had the decision to do over again I never would have sent my father to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital. This is a horrible situation. Does anyone have any suggestions? Thank you, Ann

  5. Pingback: St. Elizabeth’s apparently faster at responding to complaints than treating patients « Something better to do

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