Mo. medic, ER doctor accused of turning away drunk patient

Sheriff's officer alleges paramedic and ER doctor refused proper care to an intoxicated and injured man, saying he needed to “sleep it off”

MONETT, Mo. — A paramedic and emergency physician are under fire after accusations they refused proper treatment to a patient who was intoxicated.

According to a report filed by Deputy Al Zabala of the Barry Count Sheriff’s Office, a responding paramedic at first refused to transport the patient to the hospital, and after he was transported the ER doctor refused treatment.

Zabala said he responded to a medical call for a man whose wife said he had mental health problems, and had been drinking and may have mixed pills with alcohol. Pedro Martinez, 59, was lying on the garage floor after falling off a chair and hitting his head, and his wife asked that he be transported to Cox North Hospital, the Monett Times reports. 

After Zabala called an ambulance, paramedic Randy Haycook and he argued for about 15 minutes over whether or not to take Martinez to the hospital, Zabala said in his report.

“Haycook said that Pedro was only intoxicated and just needed to sleep it off,” Zabala said in his report. He said Haycook “repeatedly refused” to take him to the hospital, then used his cell phone to call Cox Monett hospital’s emergency room. Martinez was eventually put in hand restraints, placed on a gurney and transported in Haycook’s ambulance to the ER.

At the ER, Zabala told Dr. Tommy Trent that Martinez was a patient with mental illness who fell, and who may have mixed medications with alcohol. He alleges Haycook also spoke privately to Trent, who then told hospital staff to stop taking Martinez off the gurney.

“Dr. Trent said that Pedro was just drunk and he could do nothing for him,” Zabala said.

Martinez then became agitated. Zabala said Trent asked him to take Martinez home or to some place where he could sleep it off.

“I told Dr. Trent that even if I was going to place him in custody, he was too intoxicated and needed to be checked by a doctor,” Zabala said. “Dr. Trent said, ‘Well, if you leave him here, I am going to put him out the door when you leave.’”

Zabala then put Martinez in his patrol car and transported him to Mercy Hospital in Cassville, where he was treated and released on the same day.

Cox Monett Hospital Administrative Director Janell Patton declined to disclose information on Martinez due to HIPAA [GF2] regulations, but said the hospital’s policy is to treat every patient.

“The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act prohibits hospitals from rejecting patients, refusing to treat them, or transferring them to ‘charity hospitals’ because they are unable to pay or are covered under Medicare or Medicaid programs,” she said. “Every patient presented to Cox Monett Hospital receives a medical screening and is administered appropriate care.”

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