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Last Moments With Grandfather Blocked at RWJ, Family Says

John Urbaniak and his grandfather Angelo
John Urbaniak and his grandfather Angelo (Facebook)

Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital officials say they’re reaching out to John Urbaniak, a man whose Facebook post accuses “heartless” hospital security personnel of stopping him from being with his 93-year-old grandfather in his final moments.

Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick
Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick (RWJUH)

The Piscataway man vented his frustration on the hospital’s Facebook page over the Thanksgiving weekend. He wrote that after the family received word his grandfather, Angelo Romeo, had less than 30 minutes to live, they were “stopped, harassed, and ultimately detained by hospital security for nearly 10 minutes “for using the wrong elevator.”

Urbaniak said they had used the same Emergency Room elevator for several days without incident but on Saturday, Nov. 23 they were told not to use it. He said a nurse used her arms and legs to keep the elevator doors open while chiding Urbaniak and his mother for forgetting their visitor badges.

The nurse chased them around to the main lobby and detained them as a Code Blue was called on one of the guards’ radios, Urbaniak wrote in his Facebook post.  He said they “received a three-minute lecture from the ‘head security officer’ on how to “appropriately conduct ourselves in the hospital.”

By the time they were allowed to reach the coronary care unit, Urbaniak said, he and his mother were greeted by medical personnel who told them his grandfather had “just passed.” When he reacted by telling security guards they had cost him a “last couple of minutes’ with his grandfather, Urbaniak said one guard told him: “This wasn’t our fault. This was your fault” and made no apology.

Follow Up From RWJ

After Urbaniak posted his story on the Facebook page, the hospital offered its condolences and gave contact information for a person in the hospital’s Patient Experience and Security Department to follow up. RWJ, in a separate statement, said it has yet to hear back from Urbaniak but is making it a “high priority” to speak with him.

The RWJUH statement says an initial review shows the family members were re-directed to the main lobby Nov. 23 “in the spirit of maintaining a safe and secure environment for all patients and visitors” but they were not detained. It says officials need to speak with Urbaniak and his mother to complete their review and determine if changes are needed in hospital security procedures and staff training.

Here is the complete text of the hospital statement:

First, we extend our deepest sympathies to the Romeo and Urbaniak families at this time. We strive to provide a welcoming and safe environment for all patients and visitors at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and take the families’ concerns very seriously.  Any time a family expresses a concern like this, it is a high priority for RWJ. We have reached out to Mr. Urbaniak and have asked him to contact us so we can address his concerns. We look forward to speaking with him.
 
Based on our initial review, we have determined that while Mr. Urbaniak and his mother were re-directed from the Emergency Department entrance to the hospital’s main lobby entrance where visitors must check-in to access the Critical Cardiac Care Unit for security reasons, the family was not detained. Our security personnel took this action in the spirit of maintaining a safe and secure environment for all patients and visitors.
 
After speaking with the family and following the completion of this exhaustive review, we will determine if changes should be made to our security practices, or if enhanced training is needed for staff.

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