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Emergency Rooms Unprepared For Children

A study of 6 years of emergency room data reveals a problem with emergency care. Many emergency rooms are unprepared to diagnose and treat children’s medical emergencies. This lack of preparation is cited as the cause of thousands of deaths and disabilities.

child patient emergency room malpractice

Study Of Hospital Data

Research from the National Institutes of Health looked at 6 years of data from 983 emergency rooms. This small sampling included 800,000 children who visited the ER with urgent health issues.

Key Information

  • 30 million visits to the ER each year are children in need of care
  • Only 14% of hospitals and ERs are certified prepared to treat children
  • Emergency services prepared to treat children have significantly lower mortality rates
  • Children with emergency injuries have a 60% lower mortality rate at a properly prepared ER
  • Children with emergency illness have a 76% lower mortality rate at a properly prepared ER

The Wrong Treatment Can Cause Harm

When children receive the wrong treatment, it can cause serious harm. A lack of training or proper equipment to treat children is a major problem with treating children in an emergency setting. Common 

  • Delay in diagnosis
  • Misdiagnosis
  • Lack of pediatric training
  • Adult-sized medical equipment too large for children
  • Improper medication dosage

The research found many ER doctors, nurses, and staff don’t have training for pediatric patients. This lack of training puts children at risk for harm.

emergency room doctors aren't prepared for child patients

Harm To Children In The ER

The Wall Street Journal found several instances when an unprepared ER caused more harm to child patients. Had the hospitals stocked basic supplies and provided basic pediatric training, the outcomes of these stories would have been much better:

The Wrong Size Medical Equipment

One story followed a tragedy involving a child patient suffering from seizures. The young child needed a breathing tube to ensure her lungs and brain continued to receive oxygen. However, the hospital did not have the proper tube for a child this small. Additionally, the doctor had no training to intubate a young child. When attempting to open the airway, positioning is different in children and adults. As a result, the child suffered severe brain damage. Even after an airlift to a nearby children’s hospital, the child died. But for the hospital’s negligence to train staff and stock some basic child-sized supplies, this child would likely still be alive.

This wasn’t the first lawsuit against the same hospital for the same type of emergency situation. Years before, a slightly older child had a similar situation and required emergency intubation. The hospital did not have a proper-sized tube for this patient either. Doctors failed to intubate properly and this young patient also died as a result.

Failure To Diagnose

Another story involves a child with stomach pain. His parents took him to the emergency room for vomiting and stomach pain. The doctor gave him apple juice and some Tylenol. After 4 hours in the emergency room, the doctor ordered an x-ray of the child’s stomach. With the x-ray, doctors could see the child suffered from crumpled bowels (known as intussusception) – which is more common in children than adults. This kind of condition would have been easily diagnosed by a doctor with some pediatric training. Treatment would have been as easy as an enema. However, after a long delay in diagnosis, this child suffered extreme complications, including sepsis, and needed emergency surgeries at a nearby children’s hospital.

This child’s heart stopped in the operating room. Doctors were able to save him, but this child was in the hospital for 4 months. Even after the surgeries, this once-healthy child will require special care for the rest of his life.

Call A Medical Malpractice Attorney

It can be hard to know if your child suffered additional harm because of treatment at the emergency room. Contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney for help. You can discuss your situation with a medical malpractice attorney in a free consultation. The attorney can explain how the law applies to your situation and help you understand your options.

Contact Haggerty Silverman & Justice for a free medical malpractice consultation with an attorney. We are here to help you.