LOS ANGELES -- A woman who lay bleeding on the emergency room floor at a troubled hospital died after 911 dispatchers refused to contact paramedics or an ambulance to take her to another facility, newly released tapes of the emergency calls show.
Edith Isabel Rodriguez, 43, died of a perforated bowel May 9 at Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Hospital. The Los Angeles County coroner's office ruled her death accidental.
Relatives said Rodriguez was bleeding from the mouth and writhing in pain for 45 minutes while in a waiting area in the emergency room. Specialists have said she could have survived had she been treated early enough.
County and state authorities are now investigating Rodriguez's death. Relatives reported she died as police were wheeling her out of the hospital after the officers they had asked to help Rodriguez arrested her instead on a parole violation. Duane Allen, Sheriff's Department spokesman, said yesterday that the investigation is ongoing.
In the recordings of two 911 calls that day, first obtained by the Los Angeles Times under a California Public Records Act request, callers pleaded for help for Rodriguez but were referred to hospital staff instead.
"I'm in the emergency room. My wife is dying, and the nurses don't want to help her out," Rodriguez's boyfriend, Jose Prado, is heard saying in Spanish through an interpreter on the tapes.
"What's wrong with her?" a female dispatcher asked.
"She's vomiting blood," Prado said.
"OK, and why aren't they helping her?" the dispatcher asked.
"They're watching her there, and they're not doing anything. They're just watching her," Prado said.
The dispatcher told Prado to contact a doctor, and then said paramedics wouldn't pick her up because she was already in a hospital. She told him to contact county police at a security desk.
A second 911 call was placed eight minutes later by a bystander who requested that an ambulance be sent to take Rodriguez to another hospital for care. "She's definitely sick, and there's a guy that's ignoring her," the woman told a male dispatcher.
During the call, the dispatcher argued with the woman over whether there really was an emergency. "I cannot do anything for you for the quality of the hospital. . . . It is not an emergency," he said.
The dispatcher refused to call paramedics and told the woman she should voice her concerns to hospital supervisors.
Federal inspectors last week said emergency room patients were in "immediate jeopardy" of harm or death, and King-Harbor was given 23 days to shape up or risk losing federal funding.