Thursday, August 18, 2011

Hospital hell: No way to get well

I spent most of last weekend at the hospital with a friend.

Although there were bright spots – involving nurses, aides and doctors who went out of their way to be kind and caring – it was a completely exasperating experience.

My friend’s medical history is long and complicated. So orthopedic doctors in the emergency room Saturday agreed she should be evaluated closely before they recommended surgery to repair a hip fracture. She was admitted after six hours in the ER. I went home assuming she could get a little rest before Monday when the tests would start.

Then Sunday morning, my friend called to say she was being prepped for surgery that afternoon.

We were both astonished. I scrambled to get a shower and drive to the hospital. By the time I arrived, she'd already told the nurse she would not give consent for surgery until she saw her heart specialists.

On Monday, her cardiologists OK’d her for surgery. But then some new-to-the-scene orthopedic specialists decided surgery wasn’t the right course after all. They recommended weeks of physical therapy.

The outcome is OK. But the process was abusive.

The inconsistency of advice from rotating doctors drove us crazy. Over four days, she was repeatedly offered medicines that were not appropriate and failed to receive medicines she normally takes. After a day or so in the hospital, my friend began twitching so badly she couldn’t sleep. When she asked about this symptom, no one could explain it. She finally figured out on her own that it was because she hadn't been receiving an anti-anxiety drug she usually takes daily.

She was also alert enough to decline the drugs that were inappropriate. But I have to ask: Why do hospitals ask for a list of your medicines and then choose to ignore it? What happens to patients who aren’t so capable or don’t have advocates to help watch out for them?

I’m not naming the hospital here because it doesn’t matter. It could happen in any hospital – and does every day. And it’s no way to care for sick people.


Anonymous said...

Actually, it does matter as to what hospital it is. How will they change and shape up if they aren't called out? Sure, it can and probably does happen at all hospitals. However, if they are that unorganized, someone who could change it (maybe the board) might read this and think its "the other hospital" because "it surely, can't be MY hospital".

jjw901 said...

Doctors and hospitals make their money by treating you NOT by curing you. They should be avoided if at all possible. When truly needed, they should be questioned at every turn.

Anonymous said...

Karen, I totally agree with Anonymous 10:27. We deserve to know what hospital it was because that particular hospital will never change unless they are called out! And what better way to do it than in the media. I had a family member who had surgery this past Winter and was treated rather poorly at the hospital she went to. She did not hesitate to call them out for treating her more like a number instead of an actual patient. It's time these hospitals, doctors offices included, go back to spending more time with the patients instead of the quick 5-minute hello and goodbye.

Anonymous said...

An important post. Thank you. The lack of communication between doctors on different shifts (and primary physicians) is shocking. It's important that patients have family or friends who can advocate on their behalf, keep track of medicine, and monitor care.

Anonymous said...

Quite often home medications are discontinued on hospital admission because continuing them may not be appropriate given the acute medical condition requiring hospitalization. They may have detrimental effects given the change in the patients status. As far as your complaint regarding "rotating doctors", perhaps you should hold your criticism until you begin working 24 hours a day 7 days a week. I'm sure you would rather have a rested surgeon performing your hip repair than one who had been working constantly with no time off for a number of days.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with the other commenters who indicated that the name of the hospital is important. It's more than an inconvenience or communication breakdown, it's a quality of care issue.

If you won't name the facility publicly, please bring your concerns to the hospital administrator on call. Yes, generalities are important to bring attention to the issue, but specifics are important in order to follow up and develop an action plan.

Anonymous said...

Just curious ... does the hospital or its parent company happen to be an advertiser in the Charlotte Observer? ... can't think of ANY other reason, that the name of the instituion you critique would be withheld?

Anonymous said...

what would you write something in a newspaper and then withhold the name of the hospital? isnt this your job once you decide to write about it and bring this experience into your "job".

Anonymous said...

The name doesn't matter because just the appearance of an article like this in the CO has area hospital administrators wondering if it truly was us AND if/when the hospital name will be released.

This is a blog, but once enough folks have asked for a name, one probably will be given.

Anonymous said...

I can tell you from my own experiences the hospital is CMC main.
At this location they only care about the money, NOT any patient's welfare

Anonymous said...

And we are supposed to think this will get better under Obamacare? The only solution is for people to be paying for their own healthcare, or at least a percentage of every healthcare dollar consumed, enabling and empowering patients to have control over their healthcare. The concept of a third-party payor system has proven a failure with insurance companies, and putting it in the hands of government will only make it worse.

Anonymous said...

I have already been to the Hospital of Hell. If I had my bets I think I could identify the Hospital that your friend was in.
The nurse gave me the medication that I was allegeric to and the reason that I was admitted in the first place.
Without going into all the specifies, I will tell you that I called my insurance Company and ask for an investigation. The insurance Company was thankful because as you know they have gotten all the blame for medical abuse.

Anonymous said...

To add to already been to the Hospital of Hell, I was only there two days. I think the reason that we refrain from naming the Hospital, we are afraid if we have to go back we would be treated worse.
PLEASE, PLEASE If for any reason that you are admitted, please take someone with you with a PEN and PAD and document EVERYTHING. Check the medication, the food, even when they take your blood pressure. I was awaken in the middle of the night and a woman, and I say woman (She did not look like a nurse) and my arm was dangling by the side of the bed and she was drawing BLOOD while I am sleeping.
(Presbyterian Hospital)
Hawthorn Lane
Charlotte, North Carolina

Jay Hanig said...

Having worked in that environment, let me say that I really think most of your complaints are with the physicians rather than the hospital. If a nurse said you were not going to go to surgery but then you do, don't blame her. She is at the mercy of the physician's orders. If first he wants to operate, then somebody points out a cardiac history which suggests caution, and so forth, the changes in the patient's plans all are a direct result of the physician's orders. The hospital doesn't tell the MD what to do; it's the other way around, within certain limits.

I've worked in two area hospitals and saw the same thing at both.

Even worse is when a patient checks in and knows they take a BP med but not which one. Or if they know which one, they don't know the dose. I can't count the number of times the ED nurse takes down a list of meds from the patient and/or the family and then I repeat the questions on the floor and the lists don't match. You can't give anything that you're not sure about.

Finally, most ortho doctors aren't comfortable ordering certain of your meds, preferring to delegate that to an internist. If the internist doesn't agree with your usual doctor, your meds are going to be different. I can bring requests and point out discrepancies to a physician but I can't make him write an order. Either he will or he won't.... and it doesn't matter which hospital you're talking about.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the articles's author. Thank you so much for writing this. Because we have experienced this treatment also, we always go with a family member to the hospital and stay there. And sadly,the experience noted in the article is the same in the hospitals in another state from which I moved. This tragic comedy of errors in hospitals must be universal. Geez...

Jo O'Keefe said...

During four hospitalizations during the last four years in a county far from Charlotte I have had every unnerving experience possible. Drugs are the primary problem. Some are omitted. Generics are substituted when I have orders stating that generics of certain meds do not work. After a 3-day fight that included raised voices, I won a battle to get one name brand drug. I was sick and not paying much attention after that. Three doses later I realized that I was still being given the generic. I needed an inhaler. The hospital pharmacy could not get it. I began wheezing and then needed expensive breathing treatments. I called my pharmacy, ordered the inhaler, and asked a friend to pick it up. I could not keep it at my bedside. It had to be grouped with my other meds in the pharmacy. While staff consisted of both angels and non-caring persons, I myself had to manage every step of my care. My heart ached for those who no longer could do that. I live in fear of the day when I am in their position.

Anonymous said...

This has happened so much in the past couple of years I have gone with my husband who almost bled to death from a colonoscopy. Bless his heart he was in so much pain and could not move but the ER nurse made him discharge blood in a bed pan on his own and would not send a Dr or come into help him. did not offer to clean him though he was so weakened he could hardly move, My Dad (80)who was bleeding rectally an was told he had anal cancer in a matter of 4 hours made to walk from the from of the hospital to the emergency room no wheelchair no assistance made to stand for 20 additional minutes to have the ER admitting to treat him like crap, No cancer upon follow up a few days later but the time spent worring over this was traumatic, to my nephew who had a motorcycle accident and had a broken back to have been handed a bedpan to urinate in when the Dr told him to not move whatsoever. My Dad was given frozen plasma and after the second bag the nurse said he signed the consent form stating he did not give permission for any plasma. They also laid the pick line into the trash can to bleed in the top of the trash from the full day and then put the needle in his arm???? What is going on with our medical staffing is crazy. The people they are turning out are no where competant to handle these jobs. I am told everything goes into a computer for recordation purposes but you are right from the wrong meds to moving when told not to, bleeding in a bedpan for the clean up staff to stick their head in a room and tell you how much it stinks and no Dr's examination or help or them even trying to clean it up. Much like the way our govenment is being handled in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

I work at CMC Main and can tell you that the comment made about CMC only caring about money couldn't be farther from the truth. We deeply care about each and every patient and family member that comes through our door. We hold ourselves to the highest accountability when it comes to patient satisfaction and quality care. Are there cases where we fail? Absolutely. At the end of the day, are we a business that makes money? Absolutely. But, we are in the business of providing excellent care to all who come to our hospital and we do our best to provide that service.

Anonymous said...

My husband has had major surgery twice at CMC Main and has received excellent care both times. LPNs.RNs, and physicians were attentive, caring, and interested in his welfare.

Anonymous said...

I get so sick of people whining about health care. Look at the number of medical experts your friends saw. Were there kinks in the system, yes. But, my goodness, how many places in the world can you receive care from such a bevy of experts?

If your friend has so many issues, why doesn't she take control of her health care and carry with her a list of all her medications at all times? This is basic common sense.

And to the poster who said she needs name brand versus generic. Well, that's pure folly and ignorant myth.

I get so sick of the endless belly aching by folks like you. If you take control of your health care choices and decisions you find a lot less to endlessly cry about.

Anonymous said...

File a complaint with the NC Board of Health. I have gone this route after a formal meeting with doctors trying to convince me they did nothing incorrectly. The board agreed with me.

Anonymous said...

Chill out, Karen.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to everyone for a worthwhile discussion. That's what I had hoped for by writing this. I'd just like to add a few responses. 1) My friend is very proactive about her health care. She did bring copies of her medication list and gave them to multiple caregivers in the hospital. 2) I do plan to talk to someone in hospital administration about this experience, but I didn't name the hospital here because I didn't want this discussion to be about a particular institution. My point was that this kind of thing happens in all hospitals. 3) Nurses and doctors do their best under difficult conditions. I have great respect for them. My friend has received excellent care at this same hospital in the past. Why was this time different? I don't know. But it's a reminder that patients should be accompanied by a friend or family member who can be an advocate for them in the hospital.

Anonymous said...

"Why do hospitals ask for a list of your medicines and then choose to ignore it?"

They probably ask because it might be required by law. Or because they can be sued for not asking and then administering inappropriate or incorrect meds.

As to why they might ignore it, the word "uncaring" comes to mind, as does "incompetent".

"What happens to patients who aren’t so capable or don’t have advocates to help watch out for them?"

Dying is a real possibility.

I, too, would like to know which hospital this was. I'm sure the Observer might be thinking they could be sued for divulging the name, but hey, isn't that one reason why they have an attorney on retainer?

So get with it, Observer. Fulfill your self-stated rationale for existence...inform the public.

Anonymous said...

Being admitted on a weekend may have something to do with the quality care she received. Of course, it shouldn't make a difference, but.........

Anonymous said...

Karen, Sad story, but try hospital care in any other country. I have been hospitalized in Italy and England, your friend is very lucky.

Kim Smith said...

It might be good if you didn't name the hospital. That puts them all on notice.

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