Emergency care, with some exceptions

Following recent questions about the limits of Lakewood’s freestanding emergency department in the Lakewood Observer and at a recent city council meeting, the Cleveland Clinic has rushed to attempt community reassurance.

Advocates for Lakewood Hospital have drawn attention to a statement at the Clinic’s own web site*, posted barely a year ago, advising that “Some situations are clearly an emergency: A heart attack, fall off a ladder, serious kitchen burn or bone break. You know to call 9-1-1 and to get your loved one to the nearest hospital,” i.e. an actual hospital and not a freestanding emergency department.

Apparently, both Lakewood City Council and the Clinic are reluctant to directly confront the limitations of care without a hospital. In a full-page ad on page 3 of the April 13 Observer, the Clinic touts “full-service emergency care” in Lakewood, “always close to home.”

Unfortunately, this and the rest of the Clinic’s advertising about services in Lakewood is mostly an exercise in misrepresentation. Given that there is no fixed definition of “emergency department,” the claim of “full-service” emergency care is largely meaningless.

The Clinic plays similar games in trying to substantiate the claim that its “full-service, freestanding emergency department handles critical emergency medical conditions.” Among the “emergency medical conditions” listed are:

  • Strains and sprains
  • Minor trauma
  • “Chest pain,” which is not a condition but a symptom presumably chosen to imply, falsely, that the Lakewood facility is equipped to treat heart attack patients
  • “Abdominal pain,” likewise a symptom, which might potentially be treated by a couple of over-the-counter pills

The ad also claims that Lakewood’s Emergency Department can address “stroke with telestroke capabilities.” This is a jargon-y way of saying that Cleveland Clinic Lakewood can potentially treat stroke patients by calling up a qualified doctor at a real hospital via Skype. Failing that, as the ad allows, “patients requiring inpatient care can be transported to the closest, most appropriate hospital.”

Given this, however, and the reality of what’s left once padding and weasel-words are translated back into straightforward English, most patients may understandably prefer to skip the “full-service” emergency department and just “get your loved one to the nearest hospital.”

* Note: In May 2016, the Cleveland Clinic quietly rewrote the statement, which it had posted only one year earlier, and substituted “emergency department” for “hospital.” Absent explanation, this appears to be just another attempt at spin. The original, uncensored version is preserved at the Internet Archive, and in the screen capture below.

Get your loved one to the nearest hospital.
Screen capture taken March 24, 2016.