Sister of man injured in Kennewick Cascade Building fire says he was mistreated by Harborview hospital

KENNEWICK, Wash. — One man was flown to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle for smoke inhalation following the massive Cascade Building fire in downtown Kennewick earlier this month. Now, his family says they are planning to pursue legal counsel for how he was treated as a patient.

KAPP-KVEW is withholding the man’s name per the family’s request, but his sister Wendy spoke with us about his current condition and what allegedly happened.

Wendy said that her brother was woken up by smoke early Friday morning in his apartment.

ORIGINAL BREAKING STORY: Massive structure fire reported in Downtown Kennewick

He and his dog safely escaped the building and went to his ex-wife’s house, which is nearby. When he arrived, he collapsed on her porch, Wendy said.

That’s when his ex-wife took him back to the scene to get help from an ambulance that had arrived after he fled.

He was taken to a local hospital to get checked out, but doctors made the decision to fly him to Harborview in Seattle for further inspection.

It wasn’t until around 9 p.m that night that Wendy was able to speak with him for the first time; noting that he was “very emotional and traumatized.”

“I told him, ‘you are a walking miracle,” Wendy said. “It’s incredible he’s alive.”

The next morning, he told her over the phone that he still “had a headache, felt nauseous, and hadn’t had a real meal.”

“Simultaneously, I was also getting calls from doctors telling me they were going to release him that day,” Wendy said, recalling that her concern kept growing. “I don’t think he is ready to be released. I think he needs to stay another day for observation.”

As his emergency contact, she was in charge of looking after him and giving permission for his release.

Several hours later, he spoke with his ex-wife and told her he was feeling a bit better. Hospital workers told Wendy they would put him in a taxi or on a bus to get back to Kennewick.

“I’m not even confident he can take care of himself and you’re telling me that after the trauma he suffered yesterday, you want to put him on a taxi for three-and-a-half hours?” Wendy said she told the nurse. “Are you sure about that?”

She was told that as long as he felt better, he could leave as the hospital was busy and running out of beds.

Wendy told KAPP-KVEW that she gave Harborview staff consent then to release him with assurance from her sister-in-law that he was doing better than before.

He was scheduled to be released around 2:45 p.m. with a taxi expected to pick him up at 3 o’clock. However, 6:30 p.m. rolled around and that’s when Wendy got a phone call she wasn’t expecting to hear.

Her sister-in-law was calling to let Wendy know her brother had been waiting outside for hours, without any of his personal belongings, or a ride.

“She told me he had just then been able to convince the emergency room to let him back inside to make a phone call because he has no money, no wallet, no identification,” Wendy said. “The hospital sent him out in clothes that were way too big for him and plastic shoes. He said if the ER hadn’t let him back in, he doesn’t know how he would’ve gotten home.”

That’s when Wendy called the social workers at the hospital.

“I said, ‘he should’ve been at home right now and instead he was never picked up,'” Wendy noted. “He hasn’t eaten. He’s still covered in soot. He’s trying to recover from this trauma.”

Hours later, a service came by to pick him up around 8 p.m., landing in Kennewick right before midnight.

“You’ve got somebody who has suffered all of this trauma and then is sitting outside in the cold for three hours,” Wendy said. “They’re treating him terribly.”

The family spent several days trying to get his wallet back from the hospital.

“Your hospital took an oath to do no harm and care for people. I know that dogs are treated better than the way you guys treated my brother after what he experienced,” Wendy said in a conversation with a hospital worker.

Now, the family is planning on hiring legal counsel for what they’re calling negligence.

“This should make everyone pause,” Wendy said. “Know exactly what’s happening to your family member.”

KAPP-KVEW reached out to Harborview who provided this comment:

“We have been in contact with the patient’s family and further discussions will be underway related to their concerns.”

A statement on their website reads:

Harborview Medical Center is a comprehensive healthcare facility dedicated to providing specialized care for a broad spectrum of patients from throughout the Pacific Northwest, including the most vulnerable residents of King County…

Patients given priority for care include the non-English speaking poor; the uninsured or underinsured, victims of domestic violence or sexual assault; people incarcerated in King County’s jails; people with mental illness or substance abuse problems, particularly those treated involuntarily; people with sexually transmitted diseases; and those who require specialized emergency, trauma or burn care.

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