Grandma battling COVID-19 dies days after hospital release

PEMBROKE PINES, Florida -- A Florida family believes more could have been done to save their grandma who was turned away from the hospital after being diagnosed with COVID-19.

Hortencia Laurens died on Monday, just a few days after being diagnosed with the coronavirus. Her family said the doctors at two hospitals turned the 70-year-old grandmother away before her death.

"My grandmother could have been one of those people who walked out of the hospital, without an issue, feeling better," Diego Fereira told WPLG. "But she was just kind of sent home, you know just pushed to the side."

Fereira and other relatives thought Laurens was safe at the hospital that night, but doctors discharged her at about 4 a.m. He adds that no one notified the family and Laurens was forced to wait on a bench outside of the hospital for around two hours.

Fereira said Laurens told his mother she was scared.

Without proper treatment and as a diabetic who struggled with high blood pressure, Laurens experienced fever and nausea. By Monday, Fereira said she was struggling to breathe.

"I wouldn't want this to happen to anybody's grandmother or anybody's family," Fereira said. "It's life. It's something that's very fragile - especially in these times."

Because Memorial Healthcare System is not allowed to comment on specific cases, the chief medical examiner released the following statement:

As a public healthcare system, Memorial does not, or have we ever, rejected a patient due to lack of beds. And, we do not anticipate doing so, despite the surge of COVID-19 positive cases.

We are actively extending capacity, in a safe, effective manner to respond to this pandemic. We have instituted tents outside the emergency departments of our hospitals to triage patients who have symptoms. We are also decreasing elective procedures to increase available beds, redeploying some staff to high priority areas, contracting travel healthcare professionals, and converting spaces at our hospital facilities, to help meet the demand.

In general, admission to the hospital is a physician-driven decision based on many factors, including vitals and clinical presentation at the time patients visit the emergency room. Throughout the state, about 20% of patients who are COVID-19 positive visit emergency rooms. Ultimately, statewide data shows that about 11% of people with COVID-19 get admitted to hospitals.

Now, more than ever, we need the community's help to avoid further spread of COVID-19. It is critically important to continue physical distancing, wearing a mask to cover nose and mouth and washing hands.