Hideous medical stories of death and destruction abound and did especially take flight during the health care debate. In fact, I expect everyone can name someone who had a terrible encounter with the medical-industrial complex. Most of them are epic or at least end up causing great harm.
But for me, the real problems are quietly embedded in everyday treatment. Two stories and both probably arise from fears of legal liability (yup, I’m a liberal who favors malpractice reform as do many of my tribe – though not in the form of caps):
Story number one happened to me. I did something stupid to myself at 11pm Friday night, causing a grievous though not threatening injury to myself. A good deal of blood was involved and I wasnt able to clean or bandage it by myself. So what do you do at 11pm? You get in the car and head to the Emergency Room.
Upon arrival, I found that my information was still in their computers from a similar visit about eight years ago. This impressed me mightily. I was shown to a cubicle/room and a clerk came in with clipboard and paperwork and began to ask for my info. I politely pointed out that we’d just pulled it all up on their computers down the hall. Didn’t matter. The clerk was required to take it all again to be sure I was me. (cuz people everywhere wound themselves so they can go to the emergency room in the middle of the night.) Okay. I went along with it.
Next, a very nice young man with a big x-ray machine came in. I said you must have the wrong room – I certainly don’t need any x-rays, just help with some bandaging actually. This very nice young man leaned down, looked and said yeah, I can see that. But. But. But the doctor wants the x-rays and well, that’s pretty much that. It’s clear that if I reject the x-ray (which you can) your ‘treatment’ will take a wholly different and not particularly friendly turn. So we x-ray which by the way produces the first and worst pain I’ve yet had in this episode.
And now . . . drum roll . . . comes the doctor. Very nice. I ask why the x-ray. He solemnly says it’s better to be sure. He looks at wound. He does not touch. He says nurse will be right in. She comes some time later. Doesn’t look. Doesn’t touch. Has more paperwork. Asks if I have a living will (this actually takes my breath away). Insists upon info re who to call in emergency. I’m still bleeding, though it’s slowed a bit, and I’m losing patience. Nurse leaves.
Finally, an ‘aide’ arrives with bottles of solutions and bandaging stuff. And she irrigates, and she fiddles a bit, and she bandages. And then she starts to put a special orthotic shoe on my foot. And here we go again “I don’t need that” and ‘doctor says’. I’m out of my league here.
The best part is walking long corridors to exit the hospital and long parking lot to get back to my car. You know what actually would have been appreciated? A lift in a wheelchair would have been appreciated.
The entire matter could have been handled by the aide in 15 minutes. After all, she was the only one who actually treated me.
Story the second: My sister is in Ireland. She had a question re some prescription med she has with her and emailed me Wednesday night asking me to get an email address for her dermatologist. She didn’t want to screw up the prescription. I called them next day. They absolutely would not give out an email address. They were firm about that. Even when you’re out of the country – no email address. Sorry.
So I went about just trying to get her questions answered. Hah. Couldn’t speak with the doctor – even tho the clerk was going back and forth between me and him. Final word – they will not give me any info about her or her treatment without a signed release form. (they were fully aware I was her sister – I”m also a patient) I actually said to the woman on the phone at one point, “well, I’ll email my sister in Ireland and let her know that there’s no help from here.” That got her attention and she went back to the doctor but returned with the same message. Nope. Nada. Can. Not. Do.
I then tried ‘how ‘bout I ask you some hypothetical questions about medical treatment, you know, an academic question”? Nope. Nada. Can. Not. Do. And I guess we can add Will. Not. Do.
And so it went. Neither situation responsive to the medical situation or the patient’s needs. Responsive to only one thing of course – scared to death of litigation.
Count up the pennies and time and effort that went into both those episodes.
This stuff makes me wonder if ourf beleaguered troops in Afghanistan have to go through this nonsense when the run into an IED. I wonder because today is the 260th day of the ninth year of the war there.