In the emergency room at Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Hospital, Edith Isabel Rodriguez was seen as a complainer.
“Thanks a lot, officers,” an emergency room nurse told Los Angeles County police who brought in Rodriguez early May 9 after finding her in front of the Willowbrook hospital yelling for help. “This is her third time here.”
The 43-year-old mother of three had been released from the emergency room hours earlier, her third visit in three days for abdominal pain. She’d been given prescription medication and a doctor’s appointment.
Turning to Rodriguez, the nurse said, “You have already been seen, and there is nothing we can do,” according to a report by the county office of public safety, which provides security at the hospital.
Parked in the emergency room lobby in a wheelchair after police left, she fell to the floor. She lay on the linoleum, writhing in pain, for 45 minutes, as staffers worked at their desks and numerous patients looked on.
Aside from one patient who briefly checked on her condition, no one helped her. A janitor cleaned the floor around her as if she were a piece of furniture. A closed-circuit camera captured everyone’s apparent indifference.
Arriving to find Rodriguez on the floor, her boyfriend unsuccessfully tried to enlist help from the medical staff and county police â€” even a 911 dispatcher, who balked at sending rescuers to a hospital.
Alerted to the “disturbance” in the lobby, police stepped in â€” by running Rodriguez’s record. They found an outstanding warrant and prepared to take her to jail. She died before she could be put into a squad car.
How Rodriguez came to die at a public hospital, without help from the many people around her, is now the subject of much public hand-wringing. The county chief administrative office has launched an investigation, as has the Sheriff’s Department homicide division and state and federal health regulators.
The triage nurse involved has resigned, and the emergency room supervisor has been reassigned. Additional disciplinary actions could come this week.