Woman questions hospital's discharge policy

Beckie Chavez her father swollen, diso­riented; Says they should have notified family members


SAN ANTONIO - A San Antonio woman is accusing a downtown hospital of negligence for allowing her father to discharge himself onto the streets of downtown.

Beckie Chavez said her father, 63-year-old Richard Chavez, is sometimes disoriented and that the hospital released him twice recently without letting the family know.

"I found him with his legs swollen hard,” Chavez said, after finding him after the second discharge. “He was just hallucinating. He didn't know where he was at. It was horrible finding my dad like that."

She said the elder Chavez suffers from a bad liver, bad heart, diabetes, high blood pressure and uses a wheelchair.

He had a medical procedure at Downtown Baptist Medical Center, she said, and was allowed to discharge himself twice.

Chavez said the first time her father was released, he was found in the 100 block of West Martin Street and was brought back to the hospital on Dallas Street by EMS. The second time he made it all the way out to the intersection of Commerce and Laredo, at least a dozen blocks away from the hospital.

"I ended up finding him at 11 o'clock at night,” Chavez said.

And where he was found is a sometime dangerous section of downtown.

Before finding him, the family had filed a missing persons report and handed out fliers.

"Thank God we did find him, but what if we didn't find him?” Chavez said. “I don't think he would have been able to last."

She said the hospital was told to release him only to relatives.

Downtown Baptist released the following statement about this complaint:

"The safety and well-being of our patients is always our top concern at Baptist Health System. Alert and coherent adult patients always have the right to leave the hospital and to manage their own care. Patient privacy laws restrict hospital personnel from communicating information about a patient without that patient’s permission. If a discharged patient asks for help calling a cab, a family member or someone else to help them get home, our staff members do this, even providing cab fare if they have no money. We believe in the strength and support families provide for patients and we encourage our patients to include family members in their care decisions."

Experts say the key may be whether Chavez was indeed alert and oriented when he was discharged.

A "Medical Power of Attorney" is a legal document that allows others to make decisions on an individual's medical care.

Beckie Chavez did not have that document when her father was hospitalized, but does now. She wants to let others know that if their loved ones become disoriented and could become a danger to themselves, a Medical Power of Attorney might provide them with peace of mind.


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