Grand Ledge woman said Sparrow Urgent Care staff denied her care and called 911

Rachel Greco
Lansing State Journal

GRAND LEDGE - A woman who sought medical care at a Sparrow Urgent Care facility Thursday said staff denied her care and called 911 when she confronted them about locking the facility's front doors before her child could come inside.

Jacqueline Freeman, who is black, said she's been to the Urgent Care on Charlevoix Drive more than a dozen times in the nearly 20 years she's lived in Grand Ledge.

Thursday night when she walked through its doors she believes her skin color influenced how staff treated her.

A mosquito bite she'd gotten on her ankle a few days earlier had become red, inflamed and swollen, Freeman said. She suspected an infection.

The Sparrow Urgent Care facility pictured on Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019, in Grand Ledge.

She walked into the Urgent Care minutes before it closed, and checked in at the front desk. Staff locked the building's doors before her 10-year-old son, who was making his way from her vehicle to the entrance, got there, she said.

When Freeman knocked on a glass door separating staff from the waiting area to complain, they called 911.

She left a half hour later, she said, after a police officer told her she wouldn't be allowed to see a doctor.

Freeman said what happened was unacceptable.

"It's disappointing," she said. "The whole thing. I would like the staff members to be held accountable. I think denying medical care to somebody is a really big deal, and it’s inexcusable."

Jane Kobiska, another patient at the urgent care that night, said she believes staff treated Freeman unfairly. 

Tuesday afternoon Sparrow spokesperson John Foren said the health system is looking into Freeman's complaint.

“Sparrow Health System is currently investigating the concerns raised by the patient," Foren said in an email. "The System is committed to providing the highest quality patient care to everyone, every time. Our core mission, vision and values are to always treat all patients and their families with dignity, compassion and respect.”

A 911 call

According to an Eaton County Central Dispatch recording, an urgent care staff member made a call to 911 at 8:08 p.m.

The staff member, who only gave her first name to the dispatcher, said a patient came in after 8 p.m., when the facility was closed, and accused staff of locking her son outside. She was being disruptive and “banging on our glass,” the staff member told the dispatcher.

“Is he white, black, Hispanic?” the dispatcher asked.

“Um, I’m not sure,” the staff member said. “Is she white, black, Hispanic? Is she Hispanic or black? Something. I don’t know.”

The staff member said Freeman was sitting in the waiting area and had refused to leave.

Freeman said no one ever asked her to go. All three staff members at the facility's front desk were white, she said.

"No one had told me to leave," she said. "No one spoke to me, not a doctor, no one at all.”

Freeman's husband picked up their son from the parking lot while she was inside waiting to see a doctor, she said.

Freeman said she became aware that staff had called 911 after another patient, Kobiska, who arrived at the facility just before Freeman, came out of an examination room and told her.

Kobiska, who is white, said she was shocked when she heard staff indicate they were calling for police.

"I thought, 'Oh my goodness, for what?" Kobiska said.

She said Freeman knocked on the glass door from the waiting room after a staff member made a "very unprofessional" comment, indicating that Freeman shouldn't have left her son outside.

Even after Freeman told staff her son was outside, Kobiska said they didn't immediately go to unlock the doors.

"As a frustrated parent it's totally understandable," she said. "Her child was outside."

Freeman said after knocking on the glass door, she returned to her seat in the waiting room.

“I wanted to get her attention and address her comment, which I felt was very insulting, and highly inappropriate," she said.

Later that night, staff at Lansing Urgent Care in Frandor, which isn't part of the Sparrow Health System, diagnosed Freeman with a staph infection and treated her, Freeman said.

Staff at the Grand Ledge facility shouldn't have denied her care, she said, and she questions why 911 was called that night.

Patient complaint 

Freeman said the Grand Ledge police officer who responded to the 911 call listened to her account of what had happened and asked for her identification. She left after they spoke, she said.

Freeman called the Grand Ledge Police Department on Friday to ask for a copy of the police report from the incident.

Staff there told her there was no written report.

A State Journal reporter left a message Tuesday morning for the Grand Ledge Police officer who responded to the 911 call.

Freeman emailed a patient complaint to Sparrow on Friday. She received a response later the same day, indicating it was being forwarded on to the company’s “leadership team.”

The hospital hasn’t contacted her since, Freeman said Tuesday morning.

“I fundamentally knew that this was not handled appropriately and that it was not justified to call the police," Freeman said. “Calling the police on me for complaining about customer service, a staff person who insulted me after I had respectfully confronted her on her behavior, it did not warrant a police call. You have to wonder does that fit within the larger narrative of the criminalization of black and brown people for behavior that doesn’t warrant a police call?”


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Contact Rachel Greco at rgreco@lsj.com. Follow her on Twitter @GrecoatLSJ.

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