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Federal investigation looks into emergency room wait times at Froedtert Hospital

Posted at 7:42 PM, Mar 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-06 21:07:22-05

MILWAUKEE — Long waiting times at Froedtert Hospital's emergency rooms have been under a federal microscope, according to a report.

The six-page report, conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services, details eight scenarios where emergency room patients waited longer-than-usual times for their medical reassessments.

"It's devastating, and it's hard. It's hard to know your loved one is gone when she didn't have to be," said Andrea Ward, the cousin of Tashonna "Shonna" Ward.

Shonna Ward died in January shortly after a visit to Froedtert's emergency room.

According to the HHS report, after checking in for chest pain, Shonna Ward was triaged as a level-three patient, set to be reassessed every two hours.

In Ward's case, the report shows she waited two-and-a-half hours before leaving to find help somewhere else. She never made it to get that help.

Despite Ward's case and the seven other cases listed in the report, HHS still lists Froedtert in substantial compliance with federal regulations.

Froedtert released this statement to TMJ4 News:

The Ward family continues to be in our thoughts and has our deepest sympathy.

Froedtert Hospital "was found to be in substantial compliance" with CMS standards. There was no failure in the reassessment of patients. The reassessments were delayed due to high capacity.

Emergency Department capacity is a very real issue, both at Froedtert Hospital and nationwide. With a focus on delivering excellent care and being the only level-one trauma center in Southeast Wisconsin, Froedtert Hospital healthcare services are always in high demand.

In 2019, Froedtert Hospital's Emergency Department treated over 72,000 patients —that is an average of 200 visits per day—and volumes have continued to be high in 2020. We have invested tens of millions of dollars in our Emergency Department and continue to focus on strategies to more quickly and efficiently connect our patients to the care they need.

While we remain limited in our ability to respond to every question in light of patient privacy and legal obligations, our team continues to work hard each day toward our goal of providing the best care to every patient, every time.

Attorney B'Ivory LaMarr of The LaMarr Firm is representing the Ward family. He issued this response to TMJ4 News:

The difference between "substantial compliance" with CMS standards and "complete compliance," involve the loss of human life. We maintain that Froedtert's failure to properly prioritize Tashonna's triage level and failure to follow its own policy, is a clear indication that her death was completely preventable.

The notion that Froedtert's untimely reassessment of its patients was due to "high capacity" is baseless. Froedtert's recent acknowledgment that "volumes continue to be high" going into 2020, is indicative of a foreseeable circumstance.

The strategies and millions of dollars that Froedtert purports to have invested in their ER department failed Tashonna Ward and continues to fail other Wisconsin residents.

We will work endlessly to get justice for Tashonna, and until the practices, procedures, and protocols designed to protect us all, are adhered to.

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