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UPDATED: Coroner: Woman treated, then found dead in ER

Community: Transient came to hospital for help with wrist pain, later died in wheelchair

Posted: March 29, 2011 12:20 p.m.
Updated: March 29, 2011 12:20 p.m.

A 50-year-old homeless woman was found dead in the emergency-room lobby of Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital hours after she was treated for wrist pain, coroner’s officials said Tuesday.

Virginia Lee Pirillo was pronounced dead at the hospital at 7 a.m. March 23. She was found slumped over in a wheelchair, said Craig Harvey, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Department of Coroner.

An official cause of death has not yet been determined. Investigators are awaiting the results of toxicology tests, Harvey said.

Pirillo, who was examined by coroners March 25, had a history of liver problems, he said. An investigator requested Pirillo’s medical records from Newhall Memorial on March 24 but had not received them Tuesday, Harvey said.

The medical records could provide a chronology of events that show how many times the woman had gone to the emergency room for treatment, and how many times she had been discharged, Harvey said.

The woman was treated “appropriately,” with the same level of care as any patient at the hospital, Newhall Memorial spokeswoman Laura Young said.

“Emergency-room protocol is to assess and treat homeless people with the same compassion and care as all our patients,” Young said. “We care for everybody, regardless of insurance or an address.”

Citing the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, Young said she could not release more information about Pirillo’s treatment or medical history.

But Pirillo, like all homeless people who come to the emergency room for treatment, was given information about local services available to homeless people when she was released.

Young said in an email that because it was the middle of the night and cold when the woman was discharged, she was permitted to remain in the emergency-room lobby until morning.



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