View Full Version : personal effects
writer for life
07-22-2004, 12:32 PM
If someone was staying in a hospital and his personal effects are with them, where would he go to pick them up when he's released?
I tried calling hospitals, but they give me the run around, never call back, etc.
07-22-2004, 08:58 PM
That would very much depend on why one is in the hospital. For ease ER of access, be ready for clothing to be cut off your body. And expect bloody clothes to be thrown out with other bio-hazards. Also, if you are in an accident don't be surprised if you are missing watches, wallets, rings, jewelry or whatever. This is probably why your local hospital is so quiet. They don't want to be a part of any problem with maybe an EMT that took your watch or a lawsuit about them cutting off your $5000 Armani suit when they saved you from a heart attack. If the later sounds stupid, I was part of a suit when I was a kid. As a hospital volunteer, I disposed of some bloody clothes from the ER. The jackass sued the hospital for damages. After of course they saved his life. They had to cut his freaking chest open and give him heart massage. All I can say now, if we ever have socialized medical care, maybe they'll let us just kill those dickweeds.
If you come to the hospital awake, then your effects are your responsibility.
Now, if you are a criminal, expect to have your clothes become evidence. You can get evidence back. But that is after a whole trial thing.
07-23-2004, 01:18 AM
Chiming in from a mortician's POV.
When we are called to the hospital, personal effects can be a big issue. My boss got burned once when a family claimed that the loved one had an expensive ring on when she died which was not on her person after we got her back to the funeral home. He ended up comping our services to avoid a lawsuit. Our policy now is to make sure there is a paper trail documenting all personal effects, signed by both the funeral director on the call and hospital staff. We refer to jewelry in vague terms, such as "yellow metal ring with clear stone." We also avoid bringing anything back like a suitcase or a garment bag, basically collections of stuff we can't inventory on the spot. Sometimes the hospital folks give us a hard time if we are leaving a room full of personal effects, but it's just not a liability we are willing to accept anymore. If we go to a place of death that is not an institution, like a home or accident scene, we try to have someone there (family, law enforcement) sign something that lists everything that we know to be on their person. The police won't do it sometimes, and it can be perceived as callous by the family. But if I am taking custody of a person who is wearing a lot of jewelry, I'm going to try and protect myself. I personally came under scrutiny once because the deceased had last been seen cashing his Social Security check, and the money was nowhere to be found in his clothing or wallet, or in his apartment (where he died) when relatives came to look things over.
I have no idea what happened to the money, but a parade of people in various capacities had come and gone before I arrived. I pretty much implicitly trust the ancillary professions (EMT, Medical Examiner, police) that we work with, but people are fallible.
07-23-2004, 05:52 AM
Hospitals in Colombia, South America (I'm talking from experience...bad experience!) tend to has patient lockers. Either a custodian keeps the key or a relative is given the key. The locker are usually the size of gym lockers.
The one time I was admited in the USA was through the ER. The actual ER doctor told my mother take anything of value that was on my person home with her (how's that for weird)
I would tend to think the handling of such matters depends on the hospital or clinics policies...or lack there of.
My sister is actually a staff psychiatrist at a hospital in Brooklyn. I'll ask her also.
Everyone here is correct. You have considerable leeway in determining, as a screenwriter, how one becomes separated from ones personal items. Personal items taken from you in the ER are SUPPOSED to be bagged and either returned to you upon discharge, if you are not admitted, or transferred to your room if you are. Does it always happen? No. Rule number 1 if you are ambulatory is to leave ALL valuables at home. They will not guarantee against the loss of any personal property. There are too many people in and out of those rooms at all times of the day and night to make sure that Great Aunt Martha's diamond stays put. When it's time for you to be discharged, you just weeble over to the closet and put on your clothes and collect your other 'stuff'.
Of course, it might be fun to have some half lucid patient wandering around the hospital in his/her gown with their tush hanging out searching for something that they just KNOW came with them.
07-24-2004, 04:19 PM
Several years ago I worked security at a hospital in MN where part of our job was to release bodies to funeral homes. Usually, the personal effects were secured in a locker next to the fridge where the bodies were kept. Several times a female from the funeral home would arrive alone and try to move a body from the fridge to a gurney. Three fourths of them dropped the bodies on the floor causing an awful thud, bounced heads off door frames repeatedly, rolled bodies on their stomach's where they would bleed out after having an autopsy, etc. Yeah, they're dead and won't feel it, but you should respect the dead. I once found a baby tucked away in the fridge who had died at birth over a year before. The mother thought the child had been buried. Needless to say, huge lawsuit.
07-24-2004, 08:06 PM
I doubt it was 75%, but the funeral homes should certainly have sent more than one person if the transfer was known to be difficult. I have gone to hospitals where the cold unit was set up so as to be very awkward for the person making the call, and most hospital staff (usually the person who unlocks the morgue is a security guard or an attendant) are forbidden to help.
What really makes me doubt your percentage is that, even though the bodies are dead (and yes, should certainly be treated with respect), there are consequences when a human head falls several feet to the floor. That kind of impact can cause damage that would result in a simple embalming turning into a restorative art nightmare. It should only take one instance of having to make up for that kind of carelessness to ensure that adequate help would be sent next time.
All that being said, I've never worked in Minnesota. I did receive my education, and start my career, in Wisconsin. Maybe in addition to having a superior football team, the Badger state also more effectively schools their funeral service workforce.
07-24-2004, 09:46 PM
Considering what you're talking about, that is a phrase ripe with irony.
07-24-2004, 11:21 PM
It was approximately 75%, I should know. Most of the ones getting smacked around were probably slotted to be cremated anyway so who would know or care how they treated the bodies. And being a retired cop, I've seen worse in LA.
07-25-2004, 10:24 AM
Most of the ones getting smacked around were probably slotted to be cremated anyway so who would know or care how they treated the bodies.
I have news for you. Much of the time, the person who comes to the hospital has no idea of the disposition of the body, nor would you have, unless you had spoken to the family. And you reveal a personal bias when you speak of cremation as a lesser choice. But I will stand by my statement that I can't imagine that three of every four bodies removed from that hospital under your supervision were mistreated on the way out.
07-25-2004, 01:51 PM
I just spoke with my sister (the doctor) and she tells me that at her hospital things of intrinsic or personal value (jewelry, keys etc.) are kept in a safe. Other items like clothing are placed in a closet depending on their condition (torn, tattered etc.) ABZ
07-25-2004, 10:00 PM
I won't hold it against you that you were educated in Wis or even a Packers fan. We all have to start somewhere. :)
75% refers to the "females" who were not able to handle the weight of the bodies resulting in them getting banged around. Bias against cremation? Lesser choice? Hardly, I am already paid up to be fried.
writer for life
07-29-2004, 02:52 PM
Okay, thanks for the help guys, but I simply need specifics... like my main character is knocked onto the side of the road by a car, but not seriously hurt, just a bump on the head and amnesia about the accident... he gets released and has to get his personal effects because it's an important plot point... does he go to the front desk? Who gives him the stuff? Does he have to sign anything?
07-30-2004, 06:16 AM
At my sister's hospital (the height of "burro"cracy) you would have to go to the "patients discharge office" sign a paper and then you would be taken by a custodian to the special storage closet where they keep stuff. My sis the Doc says it's full of lockers (I hang out with my sister a lot a the hospital...can you tell) Oh did I mention you'd need to present ID also. So if you don't have any you'll have to go and get some or call some one to bring it to you!!
writer for life
08-02-2004, 11:01 AM
Cool, thanks... but what if his ID was taken with all his other stuff? I suppose his wife (who is with him when he leaves) could bring his CC card or birth certificate or something.
08-02-2004, 02:34 PM
I would guess as much but from what I've heard that problem has happened a couple of times; where the patient was left waiting for a long time because the id was in lock up.
How annoyingly typical!
08-08-2004, 07:44 AM
To answer the questions directly, all hospitals have a central safe for patient valuables. They are taken, checked, signed off by the person responsible and sealed in an envelope. They are picked up unless officially requested before discharge. Once the patient signs back for them, they are fully responsible and are informed so.
Many patients have their rings left on but tape them up to prevent easy removal. The far majority of employees would never think of stealing from the ones who ultimately provide them their jobs. Patient rooms are robbed, however, when left empty on occasion.
08-08-2004, 11:27 AM
And patient rooms may be robbed by maintenance when the new mother who gave birth via C-Section is sleeping it off and the rest of the family is down the hall having coffee. Then when the orderly is confronted a few minutes later, and the stolen items (digital camera, purse, necklace) are found in the garbage bin on his cart, he may proclaim, "I don't know how those things got in there," and might be allowed to continue his rounds while hospital security is called in, and even then security might say that unless the "theft" (quotes clearly audible) was witnessed, there is nothing they can do. Of course, when Las Vegas' Finest is finally called (over the shrill protestations of the charge nurse), all of that nonsense is cut through like so much tissue paper, except the orderly has now left the premises. Got our stuff back though.
That said, I do grant that the majority of hospital employees, even if theft does cross their minds, realize what they have to lose and refrain. And from what I've seen, it wouldn't even occur to most.
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