Report: Purdy man turned away at Cox Monett ER
59-year-old was allegedly drunk, on medications; wife concerned
A Purdy man was reportedly turned away by doctors at the Cox Monett Hospital emergency room Thursday, a decision a Barry County sheriff's deputy said goes against the hospital's policy.
According to a report from the Barry County Sheriff's Office, Deputy Al Zabala responded at 3:52 a.m. to a medical call on Caledonia Avenue in Purdy, where he found Pedro Martinez, 59, laying on the concrete in his garage after he had fallen from a chair.
Martinez' wife said Pedro Martinez is a mental health patient, and he had been drinking and she was not sure if he mixed pills with the alcohol. She said his condition was getting worse, and she asked for him to be transported to Cox North Hospital in Springfield to be checked out and admitted into the hospital's mental ward.
In the report, Zabala said he could smell a strong odor of alcohol coming from Martinez, and Martinez was holding the back of his head from the fall. Zabala said Martinez attempted to get up from the floor, but was too intoxicated to stand and would make noises and ramble.
Zabala said when the ambulance arrived, he met with medic Randy Haycook and advised Haycook of Martinez's condition and Martinez's wife's request.
"Haycook said that Pedro was only intoxicated and just needed to sleep it off," Zabala said. "I repeated what Mrs. Martinez asked that we do. After about 10 to 15 minutes of Haycook looking at Pedro's meds and arguing about if he was going to take him to the hospital, I looked at Haycok and said, 'We are done with the debate. This man needs help. Let's get him to the hospital."
Martinez was then put on a gurney to be put in the ambulance, and hand restraints were used because Martinez continuously put his arms out like he was flying, according to the report.
Zabala said Haycook used his cell phone to call Cox Monett Hospital's emergency room, instead of using the ambulance's radio, and Haycook repeatedly refused to take Martinez to the hospital.
"Haycook acted as if he was a medical doctor and was not going to treat or help Pedro," Zabala said. "Finally, Haycook said we can take him to Cox Monett ER, get him stable and maybe they can transfer him to Cox North [Hospital in Springfield]."
Zabala said when the group arrived at Cox Monett, they were met by Dr. Tommy Trent, who was working the emergency room that morning. After taking Martinez into a room as directed, Zabala said Haycook spoke to Trent, and as Zabala and hospital staff were taking Martinez off the gurney, Trent said to stop.
"Dr. Trent said that Pedro was just drunk and he could do nothing for him," Zabala said. "I told the doctor about Pedro falling and hitting his head, and that he was a mental patient and had mixed medications with alcohol.
"Dr. Trent replied, 'We can't do nothing for him.'"
During this time, Martinez had become agitated and wanted to be taken off the gurney. According to Zabala, Trent said Martinez was getting violent and he and the staff of four women could not control him.
Zabala said he was familiar with two of the nurses an knows they have dealt with combative patients, and he had been in the hospital when 4-point restraints have been placed on subjects when necessary.
"Dr. Trent said, 'You need to take him home or some place for him to sleep it off,'" Zabala said. "I told Dr. Trent that even if I was going to place him in custody, he was too intoxicated and needed to be checked by a doctor.
"Dr. Trent said, 'Well, if you leave him here, I am going to put him out the door when you leave."
Zabala said the temperature outside was about 17 degrees, and he pointed out to Trent that Martinez's wife was convened because Martinez hit his head, and he was taking medications that included some for anxiety and compulsive disorder.
"Dr. Trent said he was not concerned for the reaction of the meds with alcohol," Zabala said. "Dr. Trent did not even try to do an assessment on Pedro, never checked his vital signs, never attempted to talk to Pedro and ask him how he felt."
Zabala said Trent and Haycook stood at the outside of the emergency room repeating they could do nothing for Pedro, and Trent was not going to accept him.
"I was told by Dr. Trent to find another place to get him help," Zabala said. "I looked at Dr. Trent and said, 'You are not going to help a sick man who needs help? He was brought here to get help, get stable and to look into getting moved to Cox North for further help.'"
Zabala said Trent denied Martinez treatment again, so Zabala put Martinez in his patrol car and transported him to Mercy Hospital in Cassville.
"This is in direct violation of Cox hospital policy," Zabala said. "In the ER waiting room and several other places, it states, 'Cox Hospital will not turn anyone away for medical reasons. If needed, once a patient has been made stable and treated to the best of the hospital's ability, the patient will receive the best health care, even if they must be transported to another hospital.'"
Janell Patton, Cox Monett administrative director, said Cox Monett Hospital respects the privacy of its patients by adhering to HIPPA regulations, declining to say specifically if Martinez was treated.
"The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act prohibits hospitals from rejecting patients, refusing to treat them, or transferring them to 'charity hospitals' because they are unable to pay or are covered under the Medicare or Medicaid programs," she said. "Every patient presented to Cox Monett Hospital receives a medical screening and is administered appropriate care."
When asked what kind of treatment Martinez received, Patton declined to disclose the information, citing HIPPA laws.
According to Sonya Kullman, senior media relations specialist with Mercy Hospital, Martinez was treated at Mercy in Cassville and released on the same day.
Kullman declined to discuss the nature of Martinez's treatment, citing HIPPA laws.
Upon arriving at Mercy Hospital in Cassville, Zabala said the emergency room doctor there said it was illegal for Cox Monett to not admit Martinez.
"Pedro was treated and remained in the hospital without incident," Zabala said. "The Cassville ER doctor suggested that a follow-up be done and this incident be brought to the attention of the Cox Monett Hospital and their disregard for patient care. The Barry-Lawrence County Ambulance District should also be made aware of the actions of Medic Haycook.
"Dr. Trent and Medic Haycook never looked at or treated Pedro as a person who needed help or might even have other medical issues, even when told about the seven different medications Pedro was taking."
Attempts to reach Martinez for comment on this report were unsuccessful.