Investigation into ER protocol after patient complaint

by: Kathryn Burcham Updated:


CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services is investigating emergency room protocol at Carolinas Medical Center-Union following a patient complaint.
Federal officials with the Division of Health Standards & Quality confirmed to Channel 9 on Thursday that they have approved an investigation into CMC-Union's compliance with the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, which requires hospitals to provide an examination and needed stabilizing treatment when a patient visits an emergency room.
State officials with the North Carolina Department of Health & Human Services told Eyewitness News they forwarded the complaint to the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services after it was filed by Robert Beam.
Beam, who lives in Monroe, told Channel 9 he visited the ER at CMC-Union in June 2013 with a wound on his foot that had not healed properly.
"There was swelling, redness, and odor," Beam said.
Beam claimed the ER doctor who attended to his wound completed a simple visual inspection and did not administer any further tests.
"He flushed it out, wrapped it up, sent me home. It gave me the impression that it was okay. He said it wasn't infected, so I went on about my business," Beam said.
Within several days, Beam said the condition of the wound rapidly worsened, and he returned to CMC-Union's emergency department.
"They admitted me for emergency surgery right then, and it was gangrene," Beam said. "It (was caused by) was a blocked artery in my abdomen, it wasn't getting blood flow to the foot. They never checked that."
In the ensuring months, Beam said he has undergone multiple surgeries and skin grafts and has lost two of his toes and most of the skin on the top of his right foot, rendering him permanently disabled.
Beam said after he filed a complaint with NCDHHS, he also filed a complaint with CMC-Union. Officials there sent Beam a response letter, which read, in part, "We reviewed your concerns with the Emergency Department Leadership team and shared with them your experience. We used this opportunity to review our processes and will use it as a learning experience for everyone."
Beam told Channel 9 that was not the answer he was looking for.
"People shouldn't have to go through this. This could have been avoided. It's ruined my life," Beam said.
In a response to a request for comment, a spokesperson for CMC-Union said in a statement, "We welcome surveyors who follow up on patient care and we fully participate in the review, as we are currently. We cannot address any specific care issue due to our patients' privacy."
Medicare officials said the investigation will take at least a few weeks.