Friday, October 24, 2014

A Flawed System

There is no denying that the medical system here in the United States is flawed. Taking a step further back, though, there is also no denying that the world we live in is flawed and it always has been. In fact, it always will be until we're joined with God in heaven so let's just all get used to it, shall we?


This is like saying "Well, we're all sinners so we might as well not strive to honor God!" It's shameful to see injustice or pain and just sit back and let life move right along. So let me be officially among those who want to see change in our healthcare system. Mind you, I'm no Obamafan. I'm not going all political on this blog. What I want to see is ethics and accountability. Let me recount for you my experience.

In short, I suffered an exceedingly rare obstetrical complication after delivering my second son. So rare, in fact, that there have been hardly any real medical studies done on it. However, ask any doctor (who isn't trying to save their skin) what causes it and you're going to hear one thing more than any other: Don't pull too hard on the umbilical cord. There are other factors that can play into it and yes, sometimes it just happens, but the vast majority are mistakes. Plain and simple, right? Well, apparently not. After months, literally, of back and forth phone calls, meetings, and being tossed around through the system like a paper airplane I finally get to talk to "the powers that be" today. And, quite frankly, she should be ashamed of herself. Yes yes, she works with lawyers, not doctors, but listen here: she supposedly read through the information we sent to the hospital yet did not know what a uterine inversion was. In fact, I had to give her the definition of placenta. I would think that this is the kind of thing you look over before making a conference call with someone wanting answers from your hospital, but maybe I'm wrong.

Here's the underlying issue, though. After about 45 minutes of her playing the nice guy it comes down to one really simple thing: the hospital is not responsible for the doctors. That's a direct quote, by the way. The doctors have their own insurance and merely practice at the hospital. We live in a world where, at the end of the day, doctors are terrified of being sued. So terrified, in fact, that many are afraid to admit a mistake was made because that opens them up for a patient ruining their career. What a shame that is for everyone involved.

I asked for two things:
1. An apology or admission of mistake. Why? Go back and read my birth story if you need to, but it's beyond clear what happened. And if you think I'm pointing my bitter, trembling fingers at the resident then go read it again. Everyone has to learn. Everyone makes mistakes. But the best way to learn from those mistakes is to humbly say "I learned my lesson and I'm going to do whatever it takes to keep it from happening again." This hospital owes it to it's teaching program and to the moms who will continue to deliver there to treat this situation with respect and to learn from it. So here I am, a patient who is literally being denied the information in the investigation made into what happened to me even though it will greatly affect how to approach any future births I may have. That is devastating and sickening. Is that what this system has come to?

2. An adjustment to our bill. We are NOT asking them to wipe the slate clean. We went there for a vaginal birth and that's what we got. We didn't go there so that I could spend a day and a half in the ICU while my baby had 'round the clock care in the nursery thanks to a horrible mistake. Again, I'm not asking to ruin someone's career, but we would not have incurred those expenses otherwise. Why should we be responsible for paying for something like that?

So here are the answers I got:

1. You can't prove it so we won't admit it. That about sums it up.

2. The bill is from the hospital. The resident is not a hospital employee. Since the hospital isn't responsible for the resident it is impossible for the bill to be adjusted.

So let me bring this back to where I started. It's a flawed system. The doctors and the hospital are not a cohesive unit. If you've ever had surgery you know that you get a bill for the operating room from the hospital but then there's about a dozen other separate bills from what feels like each and every other person in the room. How on earth can there be any accountability when they're all separate agents? Who do they all answer to? In addition to that, there's the overriding fear that someone who just wants answers is going to turn around and use your honesty against you.

It's not simple. It's actually so complicated that it makes my head spin and my heart hurt.

I want an apology. I feel like a little kid staring a bully in the face after getting knocked down on the playground. Humiliated and afraid, but what can I do? Tell the bully "Say you're sorry!" and hope they mean it? I'm afraid I'm grown up enough now to know that it's not that simple. And before you go thinking that I'm doctor shaming, I'll repeat myself: go back and read my birth story. I may have been wanting a home birth but I'm no doctor hater. I could name several doctors that I truly adore. But they've been stuck in a really prickly corner for long enough that they have to have lawyers step in to answer questions for them when things get tough. If anything, I feel sorry for them. What a way to ruin an otherwise really rewarding job.

I want to be able to put this to rest but I just can't. I have one last appointment coming up where I hope to get the most important thing to me at this point: the apology. I want that far more than an adjusted bill. And, call me crazy, but I sincerely hope that my very optimistic views will be right and that this will incite some change in the system.

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