JFK Hospital ER: Local family experiences lack of professionalism and care

The following story was submitted by Denice Quinn, a Metuchen mother of four. She hopes that by sharing her bad experience at our local hospital, others might learn what to look for and how better to demand adequate care.

My baby son Aidan fell and bit his tongue. He ripped the entire width and more than half the depth of it and needed 6 stitches to close the wound.

At 9:45 a.m. in the JFK Pediatric Emergency Room, I was immediately greeted by a Pediatrics ER nurse. Aidan was weighed, and his blood pressure was taken. We were then sent to another room where I waited for over an hour. After 70 minutes of profuse bleeding, I asked a nurse when I might expect help. She said there was no Doctor in, but one was expected at 11:00, only 2 minutes away. At 11:05, Dr Li walked in with her lunch. I watched her eat her soup at the nurses' station. She did not see Aidan until 11:20.
The Dr. believed he needed stitches but knew she would need help. She also mentioned she needed a size 3 needle. She left the room. After 20 minutes, she returned with a nurse and began tying Aidan into a papoose. He was screaming and kicking. She yelled for other nurses to come and assist her. Nobody came, Aidan continued to scream, and she left to get help. After five minutes and with no idea when she'd return, I took Aidan out of the harness to try to calm him down. When the Dr. returned, we had to "re" papoose him at which point, knowing what to expect, his physical anxiety increased ten-fold. Five nurses and the Dr. began their work, none with the tenderness or compassion a baby two hours into such an ordeal deserved. The nurses were rolling their eyes.

The Dr. numbed his tongue but could not get him to keep his mouth open for the stitches. She put a needle through the front of his tongue, attached a string, and had a nurse pull on his tongue so she could stitch it. His head thrashing was so bad that it took four nurses to hold it down.

After only two stitches, the Dr said, "I need a different size needle; we are going to take a break." All the nurses left the room while another nurse went to the other side of the hospital to get a size 3 needle! All the while, Aidan was tied down and screaming. Alone with Aidan and me, the Dr. complained she doesn't get enough help.

The new needle arrived but all of the other nurses were gone. It was up to me to run and ask someone to please come and help the doctor. Nurses began wandering in at a very slow pace. One in particular, the specific nurse the Dr. requested, finished what she was doing on a computer before returning.

It took the Dr. and five nurses 50 minutes to put six stitches in my baby's mouth. They never consoled him as a baby. They did not work as a team. The Dr. was extremely unprofessional.

With my hand on the door out of the hospital, I was stopped by a receptionist asking for discharge papers and my co-pay. "Please bill me", I said, wanting to get my crying, exhausted baby home as quickly as possible. "No," she said "we have a new policy, you must pay now." I had to write my check, with my crying baby in my arms, before I was able to take him home.

In speaking with my pediatric team, I've learned that Aidan should have been put under anesthesia. I should have insisted but I trusted that the attending physician knew best. I was wrong.

Patient's Rights at JFK has the case. I will report back with the results of their investigation.


I've been to JFK and had very bad experiences. I go to Trinitas Hospital in Elizabeth. The emergency room there is efficient. I'm not crazy about how old the hospital is, but I have to say that I always got the proper treatment in what I considered a reasonable amount of time. Out of 5 times between the two hospitals (emergency room), I was admitted to Trinitas twice. I waited in the JFK ER for almost a full day and left and went to Trinitas only to be admitted about 10 hours later. JFK needs to get their act together.

If you are really upset you can file a claim through the state of NJ department of health. The pt. Rep will do nothing, the state will at least make them fill out paperwork, and things might change. Key points are: Where you informed in language you could understand the treatment plan for your son, i.e. did you understand what you signed consent for? Did they encourage you to ask questions about what you were consenting for? Where you made aware of any risks? Did you understand and agree with them restraining your son? Did each person identify who he or she are and were his or her I.D’s clearly visible to you? Do you feel your son was left alone, restrained and abandoned during the procedure?
I am sure JFK offers a lot of good services but with hospitals closing down they should bone up every department.

The most effective way to place your complaint is by calling Patient's Advocate at 732-321-7000 ext 67902. They took my story over the phone. It took over two weeks, but the Director of Physicians called me a few days ago. There has been nothing done to date, but I was assured I was no treated properly and a full investigation is under way. I will not stop until I know exactly what that means and what actions were taken so this never happens again. I will keep you posted.

I had a horrible experience at JFK this month with my 3 year old daughter. Where can I send a coplaint letter? I want to make sure it gets to the proper person..

There was an article recently about how dangerous the care is in all emergency rooms- bottom line though I have heard many more horror stories and near death experiences at JFK than at St. Peters. But at St Peters I at least feel they know what they are doing and as for kids they have Pediatric emergency room doctors that JFK does not have. You may have to wait a long time but that's part of going to an emergency room. The horror stories posted here so far about JFK are very scary and point to a bigger problem.

I had chest pains last July and went to JFK. I spent 18 hours in the ER. During that time I was seen by a doctor a total of 12 minutes. It took four hours just to get someone to bring me tylenol. Once I finally was given a room the experience just got worse. When I was finally discharged I felt it was a 36 hour prison term.

I have never seen a business no less a hospital who collectively lacked the care and concern I received at JFK.

Only subpar on heart procedures, everything else they are right at the median NJ score. Whichn would be expected as they are not a dedicated cardiac care unit.


St. Peters numbers look worse than JFK, and Robert Wood Johnson is below average on 3 of 4.

Maybe you have different numbers? The numbers I see on the website above do not agree with your statement

Well, according to the body that accredits hospitals, JFK is subpar to other NJ hospitals.

of course, thats the way it is with most things, if things go perfect and as planned, nobody is going to write an article about it. Bad news always sells...

I hear many more horror stories about JFK than good ones.

had 5 hour wait at St. Peters for a broken arm. They handle lots of New Brunswick aid people, and seemed understaffed and overwhelmed.

Yet had a relative who had extensive surgery at JFK and everything was wonderful.

Point is, you can have good and bad experiences at same hospital, depending on timing and staff on duty, and what else is going on at the time

Sometimes you get very lucky......sometimes you don't. Best bet is to avoid emergency rooms as much as you can.

While it is good that JFK is looking into this, it still should be reported to the State Dept. of Health. They need to know about this and (all other complaints). Here is a link to their site:

I really don't want to disparage anyone at JFK, but when my husband was very ill two years ago, he was taken there by ambulance and very nearly died (I'm not exaggerating) in the emergency room. I can't bear to go into all the details - I just get too angry - but trust me when I say it was nearly a miracle he lived. He writhed and convulsed there for more than 12 hours in excruciating pain before it was taken seriously by a Dr. who had just come on her shift (Dr. Stroop, I believe her name was). The nurses that night were rude and condescending towards her (that doctor!) and me, and more importantly my husband. As I said, thankfully this doctor (and I) pushed the situation and as soon they finally diagnosed the problem, he was rushed into emergency surgery. five hours of surgery.

Immediately afterwards, and in follow-up visits, the surgeon told us just how lucky he was to be alive, and that he could have died at any time - PARTICULARLY since he was in convulsions from the pain.

This is the SHORT version of the story - trust me about the long one.

Again, I don't want to be insulting to everyone at JFK, but I don't think we can ever get over that experience...

Good luck, Denice... I wrote letters about this in complaint. My husband lived, and is fine now, so weren't about to sue them. But we were lucky, weren't we? Could have easily not ended so well.

I'll leave off with one of the best comments I heard from the staff that day: the 'patient representative' at one point scolded me, telling me that I needed to tell my husband "to be quiet" since he was "upsetting the other CUSTOMERS"...

My five-year-old suffers from multiple, anaphylactic food allergies (which means his respiratory system starts to shut down if he ingests something he's allergic to and he needs a shot of epinephrine, AKA adrenaline, and transport to an ER.) We've had 6 ER trips:
1st one at 10 months old to JFK - nurses had trouble finding his veins and inserting the IV, seemed flummoxed by screaming infant. I think a doctor had to come do it.
2nd trip - We took him to JFK for observation ourselves (not ambulance), waited 3.5 hrs to see a doctor. Ended up not needing treatment and we left.
3rd JFK trip - doctor, though nice, seemed uncertain of how to follow/treat him. I had her call our then-pediatric allergist for instructions (this is not an uncommon occurrence in ERs when seeking treatment for anaphylaxis).
4th trip - was taken to St Peter's after an incident in South Brunswick. I was amazed at the difference in treatment, let me put it that way. When I commented to the ER doc on duty about it he said, "you mean you got out of JFK alive?"
We've also been to St Barbabas (they were clueless) and I have had the pleasure of visiting RWJ for myself. RWJ is a nursing magnet hospital (or was, I assume it sill is) which means a higher nurse-to-patient ratio on the floor, among other things. RWJ was great.
Denice, your story is awful. I hope you get a decent explanation for what happened, although I can't think of any.

When my son was a baby I went there once- it was a disaster, my pediatrician chided me for going there and recommended that I not take my children there. More recently, my husband went there and the experience was OK but we worried about some of practices included cleaning between patients, being stuck in the ER for more than a day, however I am not comfortable with their experience with more complex cases and in the future we have decided to go to St. Peters or RWJ. But a note on St. Peters- the pediatric ER is wonderful, on the adult side you can get stuck waiting an awfully long time depending upon what's going on. If in doubt its better to wait or go to an emergimed place.

St. Peter's specializes in women and children. Robert Wood is a trauma center. Both are excellent hospitals. I personally, would suggest children go to Robert Wood. They're wonderful!

An EMT told me to take my kids to RWJ if they need emergent care. They have a pediatric emergency room, which only sees kids, and has all the right size needles and etc, not to mention the proper experience.

I am an EMT and have seen first hand the way that JFK treats their patients. It is nothing to be desired. I would never suggest any patient to go there unless it is life threatening. It's not to say that the staff as a whole are not doing their job efficiently and effectively, but MOST are not. I have had many friends and family go to JFK and only one had a decent experience.
It doesn't really matter whether you think he should or should not have been under anesthesia or another form of sedation. The point is, what the peds staff did was wrong. Nobody deserves to be treated the way that he was. If you can't show compassion you shouldn't be working in the medical field and you sure as hell shouldn't be working with kids.
Imagine being 22 months old and not being able to speak, in excruciating pain, having no clue what is going on around you and all of a sudden all these people come and hold you down, prying your injured mouth open and sticking a "fishing hook" in the front of your tongue to hold it out.
Would you want that done to you or your baby? How heartwrenching it must have been to see her child like that!

I'm sorry to hear about this experience, but am not surprised. If you or your family member requires medical attention, head to RJW or St. Peter's.

I've not returned to JFK in four years, after witnessing an elderly woman abandoned in the bathroom in her own vomit. My family cleaned her and sat with her for FOUR HOURS before anyone bothered to do anything. This after our own six hour ordeal had ended and we were cleared to leave.

St. Peter's is your best bet. Small enough to care, professional enough to attend thoroughly and completely.

It didn't have to be general anesthesia, the boy should have been sedated somehow.

I'm a big fan of Drs Roizen and Oz and would also recommend their book(s). However, it's pretty sad that you have to arm yourself with so much information just to get some stitches.

And compassion should just always be a given in a pediatric ER. There are plenty of professional, kind people at JFK but this story is unacceptable. If the hospital doesn't have a customer service standard that is promoted and monitored, they should start one.

And my point isn't that once you go to the ER, you sit there and second guess the doctors, because like you said, what is the point? The point is to research the hospitals (and doctors and everyone else in the medical profession that you allow to touch your body.

For an ER, you do your research before you need to make a visit, because once something happens, it is too late.

Did you know that according to the Joint Commission, JFK is below the NJ State average on treating heart attacks?

Just like everything else, there are good things and bad things. Everyone should research what the possibilities are, especially in times of tight funding. If Govt. healthcare becomes the norm, this will be more important than ever.

The following link goes to the Joint Commission website where you can research healthcare providers (including hospitals)


The point is that you can't trust the ER doctors (or any other doctor, for that matter.) You have to know what you are getting yourself into before you go to the hospital.

Did you know that medical errors in hospitals are at least the 8th biggest cause of death in the U.S.? Medical errors kill more people in the US than automobile accidents. The ER has the highest percentage of errors in the hospital.

An informed person has a better chance of receiving proper medical care. An informed person knows which hospitals to go to before an emergency exists.

If you go to an emergency room with a medical emergency, you would be apt to support the actions of the medical team on staff. If you can't trust the ER doctors, then what's the point? Clearly, those attending as medical professionals should have been better at their jobs. This is very unfortunate, especially since this is our closest ER. Regardless of what JFK does to rectify the situation, it should never have happened to begin with. Anybody else have any stories, good or bad,to share?

Who gave medical advice?

Don't see any on this page...

Don't give medical advise if you are not a doctor.

That being said, everyone out there should get a copy of the book "You The Smart Patient, An Insider's Handbook for Getting the Best Treatement" by M.D's Roizen and Oz.

One of their points is to research your hospital before there is an emergency. The things in the book could save your life.

Anesthesia for a baby, who needs 6 stitches?

Never heard of that. Most physicians and hospitals avoid anesthesia for young patients as much as possible. Highly risky and only used in extreme dire situations.

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  • Anonymous: I've been to JFK and had very bad experiences. I read more
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  • Denice Quinn: The most effective way to place your complaint is by read more
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  • Anonymous: Only subpar on heart procedures, everything else they are right read more
  • Anonymous: Well, according to the body that accredits hospitals, JFK is read more
  • Anonymous: of course, thats the way it is with most things, read more
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