“I know it sounds counterintuitive because someone is just 10 feet away, but it is our policy to do that”
A U.S. military veteran was denied help by a Veterans Administration hospital in Seattle despite being only 10-feet from their emergency room entrance.
According to the Seattle Times, the incident began when 64-year-old Army veteran Donald Siefkin stepped down and heard a snap in his foot on Feb. 27 while taking his wife across Washington state to Seattle’s international airport.
As his foot began painfully swelling to the “size of a football,” Siefkin, being 230-miles from home, rushed to the nearest veterans hospital after dropping off his wife.
At 3:30 a.m Siefkin pulled into the emergency room entrance of Seattle’s veterans hospital and, unable to walk, called the front desk for assistance.
Instead of immediately sending help, Siefkin says the employee began asking why he was attempting to visit a hospital so far from home. After a brief argument, the employee refused to provide help and demanded Siefkin call 911 before abruptly hanging up the phone.
In audio of the 911 call, which was made at around 3:40 a.m., Siefkin can be heard attempting to elicit help from emergency services.
“They won’t come out and get me, do you believe that?” Siefken says. “They told me to call 911 and hung up on me.”
After a short wait, Siefkin was met by first responders and wheeled into the emergency room, where hospital workers refused to let him stay the night after placing a boot on his foot and prescribing him painkillers.
Unwilling to drive under the influence, Siefkin was forced to take the four hour drive back home where he was finally able to take his pain medication before falling asleep.
Responding to the Seattle Times, Chad Hutson, spokesman for the Veteran Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System, defended the action, alleging that the employee followed proper protocol.
“I know it sounds counterintuitive because someone is just 10 feet away, but it is our policy to do that,” Hutson said . “Our policy is no different than Harborview or Swedish or other hospitals in Washington.”
The hospital quickly changed its stance on the incident shortly after the Times requested a copy of Siefkin’s medical files.
“After a complete review regarding this Veteran’s visit to the VA Puget Sound Seattle campus emergency room, we have determined we did not do the right thing to ensure the Veteran had assistance into the emergency room,” the statement said.
The VA has since met with Siefkin and apologized, promising that the mistake would not be duplicated on a fellow veteran.
“They said they’re sorry and they’re going to change things so this doesn’t happen again,” Siefken said. “That’s all I really wanted.”