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Grandmother dies after hospital released her with coronavirus, family says

PEMBROKE PINES, Fla. – It only took a few days for Hortencia Laurens to die after she was diagnosed with the coronavirus disease. Her family says doctors at two hospitals turned the 70-year-old beloved grandmother away before she died on Monday in Broward County.

Diego Fereira believes more could have been done to save her when she was admitted to Memorial Hospital Pembroke on Thursday. He and other relatives thought she was safe there that night. Fereira said she was not. He said a doctor discharged her about 4 a.m.

Fereira said no one notified her family, and she was forced to wait on a bench outside of the hospital until about 6 a.m. Fereira said Laurens told his mother she was scared. Without proper treatment, Fereira said she had every reason to be.

“My grandmother could have been one of those people who walked out of the hospital, without an issue, feeling better,” Fereira said. “But she was just kind of sent home, you know just pushed to the side.”

As a diabetic who struggled with high blood pressure, Lauren was vulnerable. Fereira said she had a fever and was experiencing nausea, and by Monday, she was struggling to breathe.

“I wouldn’t want this to happen to anybody’s grandmother or anybody’s family,” Fereira said. “It’s life. It’s something that’s very fragile ― especially in these times.”

Memorial Healthcare System employees are not allowed to comment on any specific cases. Dr. Stanley Marks, the public healthcare system’s chief medical officer, released a statement saying generally admission to the hospital is a physician-driven decision.

It’s “based on many factors, including vitals and clinical presentation at the time patients visit the emergency room,” Marks said.

It’s not unusual for patients who are diagnosed with COVID-19 to not be admitted to the hospital. Marks said throughout the state, about 20% of patients who are COVID-19 positive visit emergency rooms and only about 11% get admitted to hospitals.

Here is Dr. Mark’s complete statement:

As a public healthcare system, Memorial does not, or have we ever, rejected a patient due to lack of beds. And, we do not anticipate doing so, despite the surge of COVID-19 positive cases.

We are actively extending capacity, in a safe, effective manner to respond to this pandemic. We have instituted tents outside the emergency departments of our hospitals to triage patients who have symptoms. We are also decreasing elective procedures to increase available beds, redeploying some staff to high priority areas, contracting travel healthcare professionals, and converting spaces at our hospital facilities, to help meet the demand.

In general, admission to the hospital is a physician-driven decision based on many factors, including vitals and clinical presentation at the time patients visit the emergency room. Throughout the state, about 20% of patients who are COVID-19 positive visit emergency rooms. Ultimately, statewide data shows that about 11% of people with COVID-19 get admitted to hospitals.

Now, more than ever, we need the community’s help to avoid further spread of COVID-19. It is critically important to continue physical distancing, wearing a mask to cover nose and mouth and washing hands.


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