Was Nurse Shortage Really to Blame in Laporshia Massey’s Death?

Father may have been negligent as well.

Philadelphia School District Building

In mid-October, City Paper reported that 12-year-old Laporshia Massey died after an asthma attack her school was unable to treat, since it was lacking a nurse on staff. That story blew up big time, making the local TV rounds, and giving us a tangible parable with which to make sense of the devastating budget cuts the school district has endured. Today, that narrative got a little less black-and-white. Dan Denvir, who broke the story, reports that an active city investigation into her death has allegedly found that Massey’s father Daniel Burch was himself negligent in caring for her.

After Laporshia’s death, Burch told City Paper that he drove her to the hospital soon after a school staffer dropped off his daughter at home about 3:15 p.m. But an investigation involving multiple city agencies has allegedly found that he did not head to the hospital with Laporshia until at least two hours after she returned home from school.

In addition, Denvir reports, the investigation has found that he was negligent in re-filling one of his daughter’s prescriptions after she had reported asthma troubles the week before. Burch’s lawyer, for the record, disputes the prescription claim and says it only seems Burch got his daughter to the hospital late, “based on the arrival time recorded at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia — not when Burch flagged down an ambulance in the middle of the street to seek help for his daughter.”

When the state released $45 million in funds to the district last month–some suspect they were prompted by Massey’s death–none of the money was set aside to hire back nurses. Whether Burch is to blame or not, let’s hope this latest report doesn’t swing the pendulum back in the other direction and convince people it’s suddenly OK to have so few nurses on call in the School District of Philadelphia. [City Paper]