Wednesday, September 19, 2007

I know, I haven’t blogged much again. Mostly because if I write about what’s been going on lately, it would probably get even less than a handful of comments like my last post, and this one isn’t even TV-tastic.

But who cares? Here we go with…

More Mom Medical Mischigoss

In a nutshell: my mother had gone into the hospital a couple of months ago when she had trouble breathing. After two weeks of tubes into her cardiovascular system, they released her. But they never provided the rehabilitation she needed, just sent her home. So she’s been physically and mentally weakened from being bedridden for so long. Her assisted living facility has been complaining to me and my sister about her condition, that they can’t handle her at her level of care. So we’ve been arguing and fighting with the doctor and insurance company and hospitals and medical providers to get Mom the treatment she needs. We may be finally making progress as she’s been admitted to a skilled nursing/rehab place, but we have to stay on everyone or they’ll pass her off like she’s a phony five dollar bill.

Obviously, this saga is filled with irony, hypocrisy and stupidity. What would healthcare be without it? Here’s a few highlights:

My mom likes her primary care doctor -- he did help years ago with her pain meds, but I’m beginning to think that now the only reason she clicks with him is because he’s Jewish. These days, that’s proven to be a strike against him. It took a couple of days and several calls to get Dr. Schmendrick to agree that my mother needed to be admitted to a hospital to be treated for rehab.

I asked him what I needed to do and he said just bring her into Providence St. Joseph’s in Burbank, not the crappy Valley Presbyterian that she went to last time.

“That’s it? Just bring her in?”


“There’s no paper work or authority we need to get first?”

“Nope. St. Joe’s will admit her right away.”

“Are you sure? ‘Cause tomorrow’s Rosh Hoshanah and I assume your office will be closed and it’ll be hard to get ahold of you.”

“There’ll be someone on call, but you shouldn’t have any problems.”

Well, you can guess what happened. The insurance company said they never got any authorization from Schmucko, MD, so they wouldn’t admit Mom for testing. I could bring her in to the ER, they said. Oh, so the ol’ lady could sit there in her wheelchair and be ignored for 12 hours? No, I wanted the doctors there to treat her promptly. After another dozen calls to Mom’s doctor over two days, when I insisted, yes, it’s an emergency, he finally got back to me saying the pager in his battery died. Yeah, right. And then he did absolutely nothing, complaining the HMO had his hands tied, and advised me to bring Mom to the ER at St. Joe’s. Wow, I coulda done that three days ago. Happy fuckin’ New Year, Putz.

Then there’s what I call the Clipboard Annies. They call themselves case managers or hospital liaisons or assessment representatives, only because they’re a few IQ points up from being labeled mentally challenged. These bureaucrats have half a brain, but a full-sized clipboard that does all the thinking for them. So who needs medical training to make decisions about patients’ treatment? They’ve got a clipboard!

Which gave them the authority to make definitive (and incorrect) statements about my mom’s condition and when we questioned them on this -- had they even gone in to see her? No, they were out hovering in the halls of the hospital, or who knows where, holding her hallowed charts… which they can’t even read.

No, that’s not my number. I’m Michael, the son. See on your paper there -- you dialed the hospital’s phone number. See the number next to the name Michael, with the word “son” by it? That’s me. Michael, the son. No, no, not the number next to “daughter Julie”. That’s Julie, the daughter. My sister. You're still confused? Okay, see, Julie’s not me. Julie’s a girl’s name. Do I look like a girl? I know you haven’t had any medical training, so this could be tricky…

Yeah, I’m being harsh and impatient, but it seems like every conversation with Clipboard Annie is like bad vaudeville routine. And that was when we managed to meet in person. When I called on the phone, trying to set up an appointment, it went something like this:

Me: I could meet either early in the morning, or later in the afternoon. I’m free all day except between 11:30 and 2.

Annie: Oh, okay, I’ll put you down for 11:30. Bye.

Meanwhile, I contacted a few other places to move my mom, if necessary. Places that supposedly will provide more care, but I'm skeptical.

Thanks to a referral agency specializing in these senior centers, I'm now getting bombarded with calls, e-mails and brochures of old folks' homes. Geriatrics is a big industry. I find it ironic, but not surprising. It's like buying a car: When they want your money, they're your best friend, insisting they can provide everything you need. Once your drive off the lot, or move Grandpa in, they couldn't be bothered anymore.

Sigh. I gotta be patient, ‘cause I want my mom to get better. But before this is over I may end up putting a few other assholes in the hospital…


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