ER sends starving, disabled boy home with just a note

A severely disabled boy was brought by his father to a Mayo Health System hospital emergency room in Lake City, Minn., badly malnourished and a nurse granted the parent’s request to send the child home with only a note saying the boy was well enough to attend school, according to a state Health Department investigation released Thursday.

LAKE CITY – A severely disabled boy was brought by his father to a Mayo Health System hospital emergency room in Lake City, Minn., badly malnourished and a nurse granted the parent’s request to send the child home with only a note saying the boy was well enough to attend school, according to a state Health Department investigation released Thursday.

Also Thursday, Lake City Police Chief Lyle Schumann said his office is conducting a criminal investigation, but he declined to offer any details other than to say some people have been interviewed.

The hospital, Lake City Medical Center, violated federal regulations covering access to emergency treatment because the boy was not examined and the visit was not recorded during the visit on March 4, according to the report.

The next day, at the direction of county social-service officials, an ambulance took the boy from his home to another hospital. He was admitted for several days and treated for “severe malnutrition, starvation, bedsores and uncontrolled seizures.”

Under the federal law, a patient who comes to a hospital emergency room must receive a medical screening to determine if emergency care is required – even if the patient or a parent with the patient says it is not an emergency – “and that’s exactly what (the Lake City hospital) should have done,” said Stella French, who supervises state Health Department investigators.

State, county and police officials connected to the case all declined to identify the boy’s name, age or where he attends school.

According to the Health Department report:

School nurses examined the boy on March 1 and March 2 after he was absent for a week. The nurses detected several lesions on his back and noted that he could not walk, feed himself and was on a cot in the fetal position.

After the boy again missed school on March 3, county social-service officials were notified of the boy’s “urgent need for medical care.”

The county, along with law enforcement, directed the family to take the boy to an emergency room as soon as possible. The father brought the boy to Lake City Medical Center that evening.

An emergency-room nurse, in a written statement to the Health Department, said that the father just wanted a note clearing his son to return to school the next day. The nurse gave the parent a note written on a prescription slip that said the boy was “vitally stable and there is no emergent/urgent need that needs our attention.”

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