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Calling for Help

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MYRA ROSENBLOOM WAS SITTING beside her husband, Jack, at Community Hospital in Munster, Ind., where he’d been resting since suffering chest pains 48 hours earlier. Then, suddenly, the pains roared back, stronger than ever. Shouting to a nurse for help, Myra silently offered thanks that at least there was one thread of hope: Get sick at the hospital and a doctor will be there.

Or so she thought. Jack Rosenbloom, 70, died of cardiac arrest just 2 hours later without having been seen by a hospital physician. Why? Because the Code Blue team summoned to his bedside did not include the only doctor in the hospital, who was on duty in the emergency room and couldn’t be reached. (Hospitals generally do not require E.R. doctors to treat regular patients.) When his own physician arrived, Rosenbloom was already too far gone. A hospital spokesman says Rosenbloom did not receive “inadequate or improper care.”

On that September night in 1992, Myra lost her husband and longtime partner in clothing and catering businesses, but she also found a mission. Appalled to discover that Indiana—and, her research later showed, 20 other states—did not require hospitals to have a doctor in-house 24 hours a day, Rosenbloom vowed to get such a law passed.

“Without doctors on duty full-time,” she says, “a hospital might as well be considered an expensive hotel.”

Her crusade pitted the 70-year-old grandmother of seven against the powerful Indiana Hospital Association, which argued that a doctor usually can be found within 30 minutes and protested that the law would cost each facility $360,000 a year.

The feisty Rosenbloom, an Illinois native with three grown children, was unmoved. She became a fixture at the state-house in Indianapolis, where she tirelessly buttonholed politicians. (Son Stanley, 45, a CPA, had planned to lend a hand, but “after hearing her speak, I thought it was they who needed help.”) Last January her initiative was defeated once, then passed—in a watered-down form—after Rosen-bloom staged a six-day sleep-in on a wooden bench at the legislature.

But Rosenbloom isn’t finished. She wants to toughen the new law—it just urges the Indiana Public Health Department to make sure hospitals with 100 beds or more have a doctor in attendance 24 hours a day. Now, hospitals still determine the amount of coverage needed.

“This is the only way of putting meaning to Jack’s death,” Rosenbloom says, “and I won’t give up.”