- Gary Fowler, 56, died in his Grosse Pointe Woods, Michigan, home on April 7 after experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
- His stepson, Keith Gambrell, told the Detroit Free Press that Fowler was never tested for the virus and that three hospitals turned him away.
- Fowler’s father tested positive for the virus and died on April 6.
- Gambrell said that several of his relatives had started experiencing symptoms and were awaiting test results for the virus at home.
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A family in Detroit say their relative died from COVID-19 after being turned away from three Detroit-area hospitals in the weeks before his death.
Gary Fowler, 56, died in his Grosse Pointe Woods, Michigan, home on April 7 after experiencing shortness of breath, a cough, and a fever. Fowler was never tested for the virus because hospitals sent him away, his stepson, Keith Gambrell, of Detroit, told Kristen Jordan Shamus of the Detroit Free Press.
“My dad passed at home, and no one tried to help him,” Gambrell, 33, said. “He asked for help, and they sent him away. They turned him away.”
Gambrell said his stepfather started showing symptoms of COVID-19 after the family visited Fowler’s father, David Fowler, on March 22. The family thought David Fowler, 76, had the flu, but after he passed out in the bathroom, the family called 911 and he was admitted to Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, where he tested positive for COVID-19 and was put on a ventilator.
In the weeks that followed, Gary Fowler started showing symptoms, Gambrell told the Detroit Free Press.
Gary Fowler died without being tested because 3 hospitals turned him away, his stepson says
Gambrell said his stepfather was turned away from Beaumont Hospital in Grosse Pointe, Michigan; Detroit Receiving Hospital; and Detroit’s Henry Ford Hospital. While explaining his symptoms, Fowler told health officials his father tested positive for COVID-19.
“They tell him: ‘You’re fine. You have bronchitis. Go home. Drink water. Act like you have the virus,'” Gambrell recalled health officials telling his father, the Detroit Free Press reported.
Gary Fowler was never admitted to a hospital and died at home on April 7. One day earlier, his father died at Henry Ford.
“I honestly believe it was because my father was black. They didn’t honestly take his symptoms serious enough to give him a test,” Gambrell told “CBS This Morning.”
The day Gary Fowler died, his wife, Cheryl, started showing COVID-19 symptoms. She was later hospitalized with the virus and put on a ventilator, “CBS This Morning” reported.
Gambrell told the Detroit Free Press that several of his relatives had developed COVID-19 symptoms and were waiting for test results to see whether they, too, had the virus.
African Americans have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19
About a third of all COVID-19 cases in Michigan are African American patients, Joneigh Khaldun, the chief medical executive for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, said during a Facebook Live interview Thursday. African Americans account for 14% of the population in Michigan.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan has created a task force to study racial disparities in COVID-19 cases, medical bias, and the impact of such cases on affected communities.
Beaumont issued a statement to the Detroit Free Press following Gary Fowler’s death, saying: “We are doing all we can to evaluate, triage and care for patients based on the information we know at the time. When making care decisions, we do not discriminate against anyone based upon their gender, race, or any other factor. We grieve the loss of any patient to COVID-19 or any other illness.”
The Detroit Free Press said Detroit Receiving Hospital recommended that Fowler instead visit Henry Ford Hospital. Henry Ford Health System told the newspaper it did not deny care to anyone.
“Some patients will meet criteria for admission at the time, while others may not,” a Henry Ford representative said. “In the case of COVID-19, we have a multistep triage process. As patients arrive to our emergency department, all are screened for COVID-19 symptoms. Those with mild or moderate symptoms who do not meet admission criteria at the time they present may be sent home with strict instructions to return immediately if symptoms worsen. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Fowlers and all families devastated by the effects of COVID-19.”