Siefkin drove to the nearest VA hospital after dropping off his wife, but upon reaching the hospital he couldn’t walk inside due to his injury.
While at the entrance to the ER, Siefkin called the hospital for help. Instead of assisting the vet, they told him to call 911 instead!
“They won’t come out and get me, do you believe that?” Siefken asked a 911 operator, which can be heard below. “They told me to call 911 and hung up on me.”
In response to inquiries about Siefken’s case, a VA spokesman initially told The Seattle Times the hospital’s response was appropriate.
“I know it sounds counterintuitive because someone is just 10 feet away, but it is our policy to do that,” said Chad Hutson, spokesman for the Veteran Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System. “Our policy is no different than Harborview or Swedish or other hospitals in Washington.”
But that’s not the case. And, after a reporter requested Siefken’s medical file and other records, the hospital changed its story, issuing a written statement earlier this month.
“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.
It added that ER personnel “should have called the appropriate staff to come and assist the patient, ensuring he made it into the emergency room safely.”
The hospital now plans “corrective actions to ensure this does not happen again to one of our Veterans,” the statement said.
On Tuesday, Dr. William Campbell, the hospital’s chief of staff, also met with Siefken to apologize.
“He first called me on Friday, and he was all over himself apologizing,” Siefken said, before Tuesday’s meeting.
Citing privacy concerns, the VA declined The Times’ request to observe Siefken’s meeting with Campbell.
“Just wouldn’t listen”
Siefken’s odyssey to a formal apology began on the afternoon of Feb. 27.
While getting ready to drive his wife from their Kennewick home to catch a red-eye flight at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Siefken “stepped down funny and heard a snap,” he said.
During the long drive, his foot started to swell and hurt.
“So I dropped my wife off at the airport, and headed right up to the VA.”
By the time Siefken arrived, shortly after 3:30 a.m., his foot had swollen to the “size of a football” and was throbbing with pain, he said.
Siefken parked outside the ER on the ambulance roundabout and, because he couldn’t walk, called the front desk for help.
The worker who answered “couldn’t for the life of him understand why someone from Kennewick was trying to get treated in Seattle,” Siefken said. “I tried and tried to explain it to him, but he just wouldn’t listen.”
After an argument, Siefken said, the employee told him, “ ‘No, we’re not going to come get you. You’re going to have to call 911 and you’ll have to pay for that.’ ”
Siefken dialed 911 at about 3:40 a.m., records show.
“They won’t come out and get me in a wheelchair,” he told a dispatcher.
“How far away from the building are you?” she asked.
“Well, I’m right by the ambulance entrance,” he said.
By 3:47 a.m., a Seattle fire captain and three firefighters manning Engine Company 30 arrived to wheel Siefken into the ER. Staff members examined him, took X-rays, put a boot on his foot and prescribed Hydrocodone for his pain.