Black woman in US dies after being turned away from hospital she worked at for 31 years

A black woman who died of Covid-19 complications was apparently refused a test four times by the hospital she’d worked at for 31 years, her daughter claims.

Deborah Gatewood, a phlebotomist who worked at Beaumont Hospital in Farmington Hills, Detroit, died on 17 April after desperately trying to be tested for a month for symptoms of coronavirus, reports NBC News.

Her daughter, Kaila Corrothers says 63 year-old Gatewood started experiencing symptoms in March, driving herself to the hospital on 18 March where she made her first request for a test.

But according to Corrothers, her mother was turned away because her symptoms weren’t “severe enough”.

"They told her to just go home and rest,” Corrothers said.

A day later, Gatewood went back to the hospital after developing a persistent cough but instead of a test she was handed a prescription for cough medicine.

Over the next few days, Gatewood developed a fever.

On 21 March, she drove herself to her workplace again to ask for a test and was told she most likely had Covid-19.

However Gatewood was still not given a test.

She made her final trip to the hospital on 23 March and was once more denied a test.

On 27 March, Corrothers went to check on her mother and found her in bed, disorientated.

"My husband and I got her ready," Corrothers recalled. "It was taking her a long time to catch her breath, to take any steps”.

"Her eyes kind of rolled back," Corrothers said. "She was unresponsive. We got her back to the bed and laid her down”.

Gatewood was taken by ambulance to Sinai-Grace Hospital where she was tested again for coronavirus and diagnosed with having developed bilateral pneumonia.

The last two weeks of Gatewood’s life were spent intubated before kidney and heart failure resulted in her death on 20 April.

Corrothers was not allowed to see her mother, instead driving to the hospital she had been admitted to and waiting outside. She told Fox 2 Detroit:

I just went up to the hospital and sat in the parking lot.

If this was as close as I can be to her if this is going to happen, I'm going to sit in my car until I get that phone call.

Her mother’s death came just two years before she planned to retire from Beaumont Hospital to be a “full time grandma”.

In a statement, to Fox 2 Detroit, the hospital said they “[grieved] the loss of any patient to Covid-19” but did not comment directly on Gatewood’s experience.

As patients come to Beaumont for care during this pandemic, we are doing everything we can to evaluate, triage and care for patients based on the information we know at the time. We grieve the loss of any patient to COVID-19 or any other illness.

Corrothers says her mother’s treatment at the hands of the place she worked for more than three decades is upsetting.

"The fact that she got infected by doing the job she did for 31 years and she couldn't get taken care of by her own family, meaning Beaumont it’s sad," she said. "It is disheartening to say the least."

Early data from both the US and UK suggests that black individuals are experiencing a disproportionate death rate of coronavirus, compared to other ethnic groups.

Experts have suggested this could be attributed to several factors, including inequalities in healthcare, socio-economics and housing.

Corrothers also told NBC Newsthat she hopes her mother’s experience doesn’t put people off going to hospital if they experience symptoms.

"If people feel symptoms, go to the doctor,” she said. “You're the only person who knows how you feel."

“If you can't get treated at one hospital, go to another”.

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