Hospital loses coronavirus patient’s valuables, clothes

Updated: May. 21, 2020 at 9:25 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - A couple called NBC12 investigators after they beat coronavirus because the hospital, Mary Washington, lost the husband’s valuables and clothes while he was near death fighting the virus.

A check for more than two grand was shipped to Carl and Marie Edwards today from the Fredericksburg hospital. Their fight for reimbursement started back in April when Mary Washington Hospital said it was not responsible. But, the back and forth ended after NBC 12 got involved.

Carl Edwards beat a serious illness; he was severely stricken within two days of his wife Marie’s coronavirus diagnosis.

“I didn’t know where I was," he said. I couldn’t communicate with my wife.”

Marie had mild symptoms and was able to rush Carl to the emergency room on March 24.

“Without a shadow of a doubt they saved my husband’s life because he was critical," said Marie. "The machine was breathing 100 percent for him for quite some time. We do commend the nurses and the doctors.”

But at discharge April 18, Carl came close to leaving the hospital in nothing but a hospital gown Marie says even though he arrived fully clothed.

“Had I not taken those clothes to my husband the night before, he would have walked out of there with a smock,” she said.

In addition to his clothes, jacket and shoes, Carl says he’s also missing are his partial dentures, cell phone, watch, wallet, prescription glasses.

In emails to the couple, Mary Washington did not accept responsibility or liability for them.

“She said, ‘Mrs. Edwards, I can not find your husband’s cell phone.’ I said you can’t find his cell phone. I said then what about his wallet. The wallet had all his identification, medical cards, veteran card, his money,” said Marie.

Mary Washington did not answer any questions specific to the Edwards’ complaint and declined repeated requests for an on-camera interview. Their spokesperson did describe policy in which staff document patients’ belongings and valuables are locked up by security.

“They usually record those belongings and they usually put things of value away," said Marie.

That did not happen. She says COVID-19 changed all that.

“It must have because only the patient could go in. Prior to that, the family member could escort the patient.”

The hospital confirms the coronavirus crisis changed things; they do not take inventory of COVID-19 patients’ belongings but will put them in a hermetically sealed bag and lock it up. A spokesperson also says they limit contact with contaminated clothing and non-essential items.

Carl says he didn’t leave his valuables at home because he didn’t think he was going to be admitted.

“I figured if they were going to keep me, the least they could do, is call my wife and say come get his belongings," he said. "They never gave me any papers saying they are not responsible for this or that.”

Consumer law attorney John Gayle says to be aware anytime you go to the ER and remove what you don’t want to lose. Give it to family.

“Most of these hospitals have waivers and when you go in you will sign a waiver that says they’re not responsible for any personal items," he said. “Those waivers will likely be enforceable legally."

But, it’s a game-changer in a pandemic, he says, when the family isn’t allowed in and the patient isn’t capable of signing documents.

“I don’t think a hospital can take somebody in on an emergency basis and just lose their stuff without there being some potential for a lawsuit," said Gayle.

Carl needed reimbursement to repurchase all those expensive items Mary Washington did not return to him.

“I need my glasses first of all," he said. "I need my partials because I can’t chew like I normally chew.”

Mary Washington sent the couple an email hours after I spoke with the hospital representative. It reads in part, "In the interest of good faith, in this instance, we will deviate from the standard operating procedure and submit a reimbursement check in the amount of $2,632.79. The Edwards are elated with the resolution and say they are shocked by how quickly it happened when they had been trying since April to resolve it.

“It was within a day (laughs) I think that once you called them things started to move," she said. "I am very happy with the situation. Had it not been for you and 12 On Your Side I don’t think we would have been able to resolve it.”

A spokesperson for Mary Washington Hospital says they were having conversations with the Edwards and working to resolve their concerns before NBC12 got involved.

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