E.R. death investigation

NORTHEAST PHILADELPHIA - December 2, 2009 Update Wednesday, December 2: The Pennyslvania Department of Health has issued the following statement:

"The Department of Health is conducting an investigation and will take action based on the results of that investigation. This could include plans of correction, fines, penalties or sanctions."

Instead of getting help for Joaquin Rivera who sat slumped over in the hospital waiting room, 3 suspects decided to rob him of his watch.

Surveillance video shows one of the suspects grabbing Rivera's watch and handing it over to another.

"I'm just so angry....it's ridiculous," said Joaquin Rivera Jr.

And adding to Rivera's son's anguish is the care his father received.

Police tell Action News Rivera walked into the ER at Aria Health's Frankford Hospital at 10:45 p.m. He complained of pain in his left arm, one symptom of a possible heart attack. A nurse allegedly told Rivera to sit in the waiting room. 11 minutes later he was dead.

But he remained there for another hour. Police say based on interviews with hospital staff the shift coming in didn't know Rivera had not been treated. Finally, someone alerted hospital personnel who rushed to his side.

The hospital declined our request for an interview citing the criminal investigation and patient confidentiality.

"Usually the longer you wait; the more damage can be done to your heart if you're truly having a heart attack."

Jeremiah Laster is the EMS chief for the Philadelphia Fire Department. Medical experts say the first hour after a heart attack is most critical. We still don't know exactly what Rivera told the ER nurse, but Laster says patients need to provide as much detail as possible.

"It's up to the hospital to provide the level of care based upon what the patient tells them."

For friends and family, the robbery and more importantly, the hospital's perceived lack of care has them outraged.

"Philadelphians should be united around demanded a complete and thorough investigation of the procedures at the emergency room at Frankford Hospital," said Wilfredo Rojas.

"It was pure simple negligence the man could have been alive today if proper attendance would have been given to Joaquin," said Oscar Rosario.

Also, medical experts say if you believe you're having a heart attack call 911. If you arrive at the hospital by ambulance you often receive faster care. Rivera walked into the ER because he only lived a couple blocks away.

Richard Alten is charged with the crime, but his two accomplices remain at large.

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