A Visit to the ER Feels Like We've Been to a Superspreader Event

Oct 22, 2020 at 12:59 pm by MK37130

Recently my husband had to go to the emergency department at Saint Thomas Rutherford Hospital and it feels like we've just been at a superspreader event. It is infuriating to spend eight months in quarantine, going nowhere, wearing masks if you have to go out, not seeing the grandkids, and then being exposed when you have a medical emergency. 

During the more than 5 hours in the waiting room, I observed several things that were troubling. Because I could not find anywhere on the Saint Thomas website to contact a patient advocate or make a complaint, and I damn sure wasn't going back in there, here is the problem.

A patient with obvious COVID-19 symptoms and who told the front desk person that he thought he had it staggered to the second desk and, because he was weak and having trouble breathing, held on to the counter to keep standing, touching it everywhere. No one  got him a wheelchair and no one ever wiped this counter down. He was sent to sit in the same area as other waiting folks. Only after he went through triage did he go sit in the section reserved for COVID-19 patients.

To get there, he had to go through the crowd in the waiting room. Now this section is glass on three sides and the fourth side is open to the waiting room and not far from anyone sitting in it. CDC guidelines say folks with COVID-19 symptoms should not be sitting in the general waiting area and that if they have no way of isolating them let them be in their car waiting and called when it is their turn.

Another woman, who came in maskless, was told at the first desk to put in on, didn't comply and was allowed to move on to the admission desk where she finally put on her mask. Seriously, how hard is it to say “Put on your mask now” and not let her in until she does. The doctor who saw my husband was maskless as well. Just because we didn't have the symptoms doesn't make this OK, how many folks had he been exposed to that day before us? Again, not in compliance with CDC guidelines.

Most folks seemed to have one person with them to advocate for them in the system, but a few appeared to be with several family members. Why allow this? The waiting area is already overcrowded with people having a hard time social distancing. And take a wild guess….nope not in compliance with CDC guidelines either.

And finally, in five hours, no one cleaned the bathrooms, or the chairs or the counters. I was watching at this point and waiting. Not once.

This seems to me like a hospital that isn't really taking the pandemic seriously. They do know (I hope) how to do this right and while it is hard, difficult to get the logistics in place, it is not only possible, but absolutely necessary. It would be the right thing to do if you want to care for the health and safety of people in your care.


The hospital has had eight months to get logistics in place and follow CDC guidelines. Months ago, I had a friend who was not able to accompany his wife into the ER and made to stay in his car for hours while she was taken care of because they were limiting the number of people who could be there. What is going on?? This seems criminal. Who is in charge? Rutherford county has had 637 new cases since last Friday and 4 additional deaths for a total of 110. It’s bad enough that people are spreading the virus by I’m not taking personal responsibility (being #Rutherford Responsible - the Mayor’s solution!), but it seems, from this example, that the spread is being intentionally institutionalized.
Yesterday, Friday, October 23, we had the highest number of daily cases to date in RuCo. Maybe this had something to do with conditions in the ER wailing room? https://covid19.tn.gov/data/dashboards/?County=Rutherford
I took my 4 year old son there for a forehead lasceration on Oct 22. We got expedited but it was very unnerving to sit in the waiting room for 2 hours. But what other option did I have? Other people had been waiting 8 hours. It was just sad to be honest, and I feel bad for the workers there as much as the patients.
It’s gotta be tough to live life in such fear. I pray you all find peace. Pray for the doctors and nurses that show no fear.
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