"They were very, very upset, reasonably upset, and understandably, and they had a lot of questions"

Coroner Speaks Out After Man Dies in the Bathroom at UnityPoint Health-Methodist

PEORIA, Ill. - We’re learning new details in the death of a man inside an emergency department bathroom at UnityPoint Health- Methodist Hospital.

54-year-old Phillip Burgess was found dead hours after being discharged Thursday. The Peoria County Coroner says the family has many questions surrounding the death. Burgess died just a month after Rodrico McLeod died of Bacterial Meningitis in the Peoria County Jail, after he was arrested for trespassing when seeking treatment at the hospital. But the coroner says these cases could have happened anywhere.

"It was very tough and they were very, very upset, reasonably upset, and understandably, and they had a lot of questions." Peoria County Coroner Jamie Harwood said. 

Jamie Harwood says Burgess went to the hospital Thursday after having a seizure and sustaining a laceration. He was released around 4:30 that afternoon.

"In my estimation he was probably there 6 to 8, 6 to 8 hours." Harwood explained.

A hospital employee noticed clothing sticking out from under a bathroom door inside the emergency department and later discovered Burgess on the ground.

"I certainly think if they would've found him earlier it would've made a difference in the outcome." Harwood said.

Preliminary autopsy results reveal Burgess broke his neck, which likely caused his death. There's no word whether another seizure caused him to fall. But Harwood says, in a busy emergency department, it's unlikely anyone would've heard the fall or known to look for him.

"They probably just presumed he was going to leave the building instead of use the bathroom first so they would have no reason to look for him." Harwood explained.

Harwood also says he isn't surprised the hospital discharged him.

"It's unfortunately a matter of geography. In my opinion, this gentleman could've gotten home and had a seizure and fallen and had the exact same injury." Harwood said.

As for the case of Rodrico McLeod, he says the same.

"I would say the same thing about Mr. McLeod as well who died at the jail he could've gone home and passed away there as well. It's just an unfortunate matter of geography." Harwood explained.

In a statement, a spokesperson for UnityPoint Health said “Thursday, an unexpected death occurred in the Emergency Department on our Methodist Campus. We are implementing our standard, detailed review process to fully investigate and ensure all appropriate action is taken in this case. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family. 

The hospital declined further comment.

"I think death is a hard thing. It doesn't matter where it happens or how it happens. Death is a tough thing." Harwood said.

Harwood says he's waiting on toxicology reports. The family does have an account set up through CEFCU for those looking to support them.


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