Emergency Care? With Some Exceptions

Following recent questions about the limits of Lakewood’s freestanding emergency department in the Observer and at a recent Cty Council meeting, the Cleveland Clinic has scrambled to attempt community reassurance.

Advocates for Lakewood Hospital have drawn attention to a statement at the Clinic’s own web site, posted barely a year ago, advising that “Some situations are clearly an emergency: A heart attack, fall off a ladder, serious kitchen burn or bone break. You know to call 9-1-1 and to get your loved one to the nearest hospital,” i.e. a full hospital and not a freestanding emergency department.

Apparently both Lakewood City Council members and the Clinic are reluctant to directly confront the limitations of care without a hospital. In a full-page ad in the April 13 Observer, the Clinic touted “full-service emergency care” in Lakewood, “always close to home.”

Unfortunately, this and the rest of the Clinic’s advertising about services in Lakewood is mostly an exercise in misdirection. Given that there is no fixed definition of “emergency department,” the claim of “full-service” emergency care is largely meaningless.

The Clinic plays more word games in trying to substantiate the claim that its “full-service, freestanding emergency department handles critical emergency medical conditions.” Among the “emergency medical conditions” listed are:

  • Strains and sprains
  • Minor trauma
  • “Chest pain,” which is not a condition but a symptom presumably chosen to imply, falsely, that the Lakewood facility is equipped to treat heart attack patients on site
  • “Abdominal pain,” likewise a symptom, which might potentially be treated by a couple of over-the-counter pills

The ad also claims that Lakewood’s Emergency Department can address “stroke with telestroke capabilities.” This is a jargon-y way of saying that if a stroke victim arrives at Lakewood's ER, staff can call up a qualified doctor at a real hospital via Skype. Failing that, as the ad allows, “patients requiring inpatient care can be transported to the closest, most appropriate hospital.”

Given this, however, and the reality of what’s left after padding and weasel-words are translated back into straightforward English, most patients may want to skip the “full-service” emergency department and just “get your loved one to the nearest hospital.”

Matt Kuhns

Matt Kuhns is a freelance graphic designer, and occasional author.

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Volume 12, Issue 9, Posted 3:24 PM, 04.26.2016