City council to investigate E.R. death

PHILADELPHIA - December 10, 2009

63-year-old Joaquin Rivera died while awaiting care at Aria Health's Frankford campus on November 28th.

On Thursday morning, Council voted unanimously to hold public hearings to be held in January, and Aria Health officials will be subpoenaed to testify at City Hall.

Surveillance video released show Rivera being robbed as he was dying in the E.R.

Rivera had arrived at the hospital around 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, and eleven minutes later he was dead.

Well over an hour after he died, a witness had to alert hospital staffers about Rivera.

Critics call Aria 'inept,' at best.

City Council's vote came in the wake of community outrage in the wake of this case.

"It's clear that the best practices there at Aria Health were not in place," said Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown. "So it's time for us, as a legislative body, to take a closer look." Brown said they would take a look at what the best practices are at hospitals around the country, and see where Aria Health fell short.

"What could they have done differently?" asked Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez. "It's clear to me that the fact that staff at Aria walked by this gentlemen several times, and no one thought it was important enough to ask this gentlemen why, as it appeared he was, sleeping. That is very concerning to me."

Aria Health says an internal probe shows that staff did not violate protocols in the handling of Rivera. But, at the same time, they say they will make changes, hoping to avoid another waiting room death.

Sources tell Action News that Aria has already added staff to the Frankford emergency room and is training intake personnel to be more aggressive.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health is working on its own report about this incident.

Police say the three people who robbed Rivera as he was dying in the E.R. have been arrested.

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