Here’s the scenario: Your clinic opens at 8. A nonclinical staff member arrives at 7:50, only to find a woman in distress waiting at the locked front door, complaining of chest pains and shortness of breath and heading toward a full-blown panic. You hope your staffer would:

  1. Let the patient in immediately, then call the first clinician scheduled to work to see how close they are to arriving
  2. Let the patient in immediately and call 911
  3. Not let the patient in, but stay with her and call 911
  4. Tell the patient (again) the clinic won’t open for 10 more minutes, so she’ll have to wait outside until then

This is not merely a hypothetical question, but a description of a situation that arose recently outside a Colorado urgent care center. Unfortunately, the staff member in effect chose option D, insisting the patient wait outside because the clinic wouldn’t be open for 10 more minutes; she then went inside to prepare to open while the patient retreated to her car to call 911 herself. EMTs arrived 8 minutes later and transported her to the closest emergency room. Fortunately, she was not having a heart attack but was diagnosed with supraventricular tachycardia. Unfortunately, she’s left with the lingering question of how someone who works at a medical facility could brush past a person clearly in need of help. (Other people in the community are asking the same thing, as the story was picked up by local media.) While it’s true that there may be liability issues with allowing a patient into your facility without a provider on site, common sense might dictate that a patient in need should be assisted in some way. What would you want your staff to do—and would they be well trained enough to do that?

Would Your Staff Turn Away a Patient in Need 10 Minutes Before Opening?
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