DALLAS – A woman who never saw a doctor even though she waited 19 hours with an injured leg in Parkland Memorial Hospital's emergency department got a bill from the hospital for $162.
Amber Joy Milbrodt, who said she fractured a bone in her right leg while playing volleyball, received the bill two weeks after her Sept. 24 visit.
"It should have been more like them paying me for having to sit in the emergency room for 19 hours. That's just sad. It's not proper. It's almost not moral, what I went through," she said in a story for Monday's online edition of The Dallas Morning News.
Parkland officials say the bill was appropriate because a nurse spent time assessing Milbrodt for triage.
"She's not paying for waiting," says Rick Rhine, the hospital's vice president in charge of billing. "She's paying for the assessment she received."
The assessment, which lasted a few minutes, established her place in line that night. The hospital says one in five patients who check into Parkland's ER leaves before seeing a doctor. Those who stay long enough to see a triage nurse must pay.
It is not the first time extended waits at the hospital's ER have surfaced. A few days before Milbrodt's visit, a 58-year-old man who checked in for stomach pains waited 19 hours and then suffered cardiac arrest. Former restaurateur Mike Herrera died Sept. 20 as his family members looked on.
Hospital officials say they need more beds to handle the excessive number of patients who need care.
A plan to build a new Parkland Memorial Hospital, costing nearly $1.3 billion, is in the works. A bond election is on the Nov. 4 ballot. The proposed 862-bed hospital would give Parkland 28 percent more beds when completed in 2014.
Meanwhile, 29-year-old Milbrodt, who has no insurance, said she does not plan to pay the bill, nor does she intend to go back to Parkland. After leaving the ER, she spent a few days resting at home with her leg up and then put it in a brace, which she still wears. It seems to be healing, she said.