Protest over ER death

FRANKFORD - December 6, 2009

Activist gathered outside the emergency room at Aria Health's Frankford campus to rail against what they call an inept healthcare system that may have cost the life of Joaquin Rivera, a community leader, musician, and veteran educator.

Rivera died in the emergency room the night of November 28 after arriving at 10:45 p.m. complaining of pain in his left side, a classic sign of a heart attack. He was told to take a seat. 11 minutes later he perished.

Well over an hour after he walked in, a witness alerted hospital staffers. The 63-year-old Rivera was pronounced dead.

The community is outraged and the story has gained national headlines.

"A man came into an emergency room and for 79 minutes he laid and died," former city councilman Angel Ortiz said.

"We know it happens in other parts, but it's sad and it's a shame that it would happen here in Philadelphia close to so many other hospitals," Joe Garcia of the National Congress for Puerto Rican Rights said.

There was yet another assault on the dignity of a human life as surveillance video captured others apparently robbing Rivera as he died.

44-year old Richard Alten and 41-year-old Martin Smith are now under arrest. Police say they found Rivera's watch in Harris' pocket.

Rivera's family and many friends are outraged his final moments played out this way.

Aria Health has so far declined to comment on the Rivera case as a number of investigations for fort including a probe by the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

Copyright © 2020 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.