Worst Hospital I’ve Ever Been In

The hospital where you go to receive treatment can mean the difference between life and death.

I didn’t realize that until R called me one morning last week at 4:30 a.m., and I rushed him to the nearest medical facility. It’s located only a few miles away, and because he seemed to have suffered a stroke, time was of the essence. I’d read there was something positive doctors could do if people got there quickly in these circumstances, but I didn’t know what. I only knew I wanted them to help him.

Being fairly new to the area, I didn’t realize I might have made a deadly mistake. R might still have to pay for our visit to the Lehigh Regional Medical Center.

Here’s the letter I wrote the day after I took him home. It’s going in the mail today. I’m posting it on the blog. I may attempt to get media interested, though it seems everyone already knows what I found out during the thirty-five hours or so we spent there. Specific complaints were italicized for emphasis.

________

April 24, 2016

To Person Who Runs This Hospital:

I brought someone to the ER entrance at around 5 a.m. April 20. I have never been to a hospital with a more inept, incompetent, inconsiderate staff.

Here is a list of my complaints, augmented by what the patient remembers. I have already left instructions with my friends never to send me to your facility in case of an emergency, even though it’s the most convenient and Fort Myers is a long drive away. The patient feels the same way.

Furthermore, the patient’s brother and his wife, who have lived in the area a long time, are friends with a local nurse, who advised us to remove the patient from your facility asap. Since it’s become known R was at your facility for treatment, everyone, without fail, was appalled and advised never to visit you again. That’s how little the community thinks of your skills.

It would do you good to remember you serve the public and see people at their most vulnerable. Patients expect and should receive the highest level of care possible. You fell far short of the mark.

[R’s name inserted here as patient, mine as person filing complaint]

In the ER

  1. R called me at 4:30 a.m., requesting assistance. I drove to his house and found him exhibiting symptoms of a stroke: slurred speech, trouble walking and coordinating hand movements. R is 63, has high blood pressure for which he takes no medicine, and smokes. He was mobile enough for me to get him to the car and drive to the ER. I parked in front of the entrance. R said he could walk in. Good thing, because I saw no wheelchair nearby and no one but intake behind a wall of glass inside. While I acknowledge it would have taken only moments (hopefully!) to get a wheelchair out to him, there was absolutely no sense of urgency at all. It felt like any standard entrance to a hospital.
  2. Instead of immediately whisking R to the ER, they passed a form to me to fill out. Shouldn’t that have been the other way around? Whisk first, pass form second!
  3. Before joining R in the ER, I went out to move my car, which was blocking the entrance. No one asked me to do it, and I don’t remember seeing signs that said “Don’t park here.” What if I had been as incompetent as your staff or so worried about my friend I didn’t remember to move it? What if an ambulance had arrived while I was elsewhere, and my car had still been parked there?
  4. By the time I was shown back to the ER, they’d removed his shirt and hooked him up to a machine via sensors and wires. A hospital gown had been put on him, over his shorts and underwear. He was still wearing his shoes. Someone was asking him mental alertness questions, and he was answering correctly, albeit slowly. The rest of the ER was dark; I got the feeling only R was there at that time. He was taken for a chest X-ray and CT scan. Kudos to this tech; she was professional, spoke quietly, and got it done efficiently. Back in #9 in the ER, R asked for water and someone brought him some. Beeps and alarms from his machine and others in the area were ignored. At one point, I had to go out to the nurse’s station, where about five people were gathered, chatting and laughing loudly, to ask them if they were going to check out the alarm on R’s machine.
  5. I was with R in the ER for about five hours before he was moved upstairs. During that time, there was a lot of loud talking from the station and some activity in the hall, but other than someone taking his blood—twice!—no one much did anything or came to talk to me about what was happening. When R had to pee, I helped him do it. When he threw up, I helped him sit up and held the bag. Your staff was yakking. Leaving a patient in the hands of a visitor who might be too worried or freaked out to attend to the patient should be an absolute no-no, especially when that patient presents with stroke symptoms and told you he’d had trouble swallowing earlier. Also: do you assume people not trained or paid to do so should handle body fluids of someone in an ER? WTF, people. We live in dangerous times. NEVER ASSUME.
  6. Earlier, someone had asked for a urine sample. After R peed, I took it out to the station. They said to leave it on the tray in #9. Despite me bugging them about it twice, that piss sat there the rest of the time we were in the ER. No one collected it, therefore no tests were run on it.
  7. A doctor made a brief appearance. I only knew he was a doctor because he was wearing a white coat. Other people who flitted in and out didn’t tell me what their function was. Takes two seconds. “I’m Nurse Whatever.” That’s it. That’s all that’s necessary. The doctor advised me to “stay there.” Why? Because I was doing the job the staff should have been doing? Observing and caring for the patient??
  8. Someone mentioned R being seen by a neurologist. Was that the doctor in the white coat? The one who asked a few questions, then vanished, never to be seen again?
  9. A different doctor showed up and checked his ears. She noted “a bad infection and several holes” in his left eardrum that “suggested” TB might be involved. Suddenly, we’re talking isolation, masks and gowns, and a two-day TB test. Uh, he’d just had a stroke. It’s even possible he had a second stroke while we waited; he’d started talking normally, then crashed again, and again, I had to tell the staff what was going on.
  10. Note #1: R was unaware of any ear infection. His chest X-ray was clear, he was not coughing, and he has never coughed blood. “Ruling something out” is not a good enough reason to pump someone full of antibiotics while ignoring the reason he was there: to be treated for stroke.
  11. Note #2: Gregory House said “Everyone lies,” but to totally discount what a patient says is stupid and irresponsible. The patient is the first place you go to for information. Take it with a grain of salt but never ignore it.
  12. Note #3: A sign posted in the ER said one visitor at a time. At one point, both R’s brother and I attended him, and later, when the ER started filling up, I noticed whole families trotting past. I think I even saw a kid at one point. Exposing the public to possible infectious disease is short-sighted and irresponsible. There’s a waiting room; why wasn’t it being used?
  13. Note #4: Staff kept asking R to move up the gurney (his feet were dangling). Uh, he’d had a stroke! They knew he couldn’t move! They should have assisted when they needed him to move.
  14. Note #5: They took him to the imaging trailer for an MRI and kept nagging him to remain still. Again: this is a patient! He’s sick. If he can’t stop twitching, you don’t berate him for it. Sedating him would have been better, don’t you think?
  15. Note #6 Staff told R he was dehydrated yet didn’t make fresh water readily available, nor did they hook up an IV to assure he was getting enough fluids. Unacceptable!

In Isolation

  1. Up in Room 204, Nurse Huey showed up. Professional attitude but talked to R like he was a moron and ended every sentence with “okay.” “If you need to get up, you will call me, okay?” “If you need attention of any kind, you will press this button, okay?” He repeated the information about the camera being turned on and off several times. If you think a patient doesn’t understand what you’re saying, that’s an indication he should not be left alone and/or the camera should be on to monitor them.
  2. They insisted on treating R as if he had TB, so he was placed in isolation. There was no sign on or over the door to indicate a mask had to be worn at all times. Bins hung on the door, but unless you poked around in them, you wouldn’t know what was in them. R’s brother walked right by the nurse’s station to R’s room and would have entered without a mask if I hadn’t called and warned him first. You guys have lousy security. (Two days later, the TB tests on his arms are negative.)
  3. A patient who was having trouble sitting up and standing was not given a urinal or vomit basin/bag, nor was he catheterized. This absolutely floored me. It’s common sense, isn’t it? He couldn’t reach the call button, so when he had to pee, he did it on himself and the floor. When he vomited, it landed on him and the floor. No one noticed for a while, and it wasn’t properly cleaned up until hours later. This is not only humiliating for the patient, it’s disgusting he was left in such a state.
  4. During intake, Huey said he would bring R a nicotine patch; that never showed up. A urinal and vomit basin were never given to him, even though I asked for them. Huey said someone would talk to R about his difficulty in swallowing; they never showed up. He saw no doctor after being moved to Isolation.
  5. R was given food without being asked about dietary restrictions. Lucky for you he’s a meat-eating coffee drinker; I would have had a fit, being a vegetarian who drinks water. Given his previous difficulty in swallowing, he should have been observed while eating in case he started choking. What the hell is wrong with your staff?
  6. R was supposed to be changed into a gown with a pocket for his sensors. That never happened. In fact, he was left in his filthy street clothes the two days he was there. Appalling! His shorts were stained with piss and even then, they didn’t remove them.
  7. No one told him what was happening or why. Patients are not meat. You do not treat them like animals. Even if you think they don’t understand what you’re saying, you damn well better say it. R was physically impaired for a short time, but mentally, he was alert and functioning. Your staff made erroneous assumptions that could have jeopardized his health.
  8. The bathroom doorway was partially blocked by a large machine that, I think, filtered the air. It had sharp corners. A large silver tube, like that coming off a clothes dryer, attached that machine to a hole in the bathroom ceiling, making full access to the toilet difficult. I used to work in Quality Control. Osha would never have signed off on that (blocked doorway, sharp corners that could harm a patient who fell against it), yet I was told this setup was okayed by your quality controllers. I took pictures.

R signed an AMA form and left. He didn’t feel he’d been helped at all. He has told all his friends never to send him to your facility. He’d rather travel forty minutes to Fort Myers for treatment.

Maybe you’re outstanding when someone is having a heart attack, but judging by R’s two-day stay, I wouldn’t trust you to do anything more than pop on a Band-Aid. Rumor has it a new hospital is being built in Lehigh. We can’t wait.

___________

Several days later, I’m still pissed as hell over how they treated R. As far as I could tell, he didn’t receive whatever treatment is supposed to be administered to stroke victims. They focused on tests, some of them unnecessary, and the TB he did not have. I’ve been told the facility has changed hands several times during the last several years, and the latest buyer is out in California: Prime Health Care Services.

Do yourself a favor: investigate now what hospital you will use in the event of an emergency. Assure yourself you or your loved one will get the care they deserve instead of being treated like R was.

R is resting at home. He’s attempting to make an appointment with one of two doctors who specializes in strokes. His speech is pretty much back to normal, but he says he still feels a little off-balance. He takes things slowly and avoids unnecessary travel. He is making major lifestyle changes: stopping smoking, taking his BP meds, and swallowing an aspirin every night. He still thinks leaving that place was the right decision.

He is debating whether or not to pay the bills when they come in but leaning toward not doing it. I can’t say I blame him after what I witnessed there.

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About Fenraven

Fenraven happily lives in south Florida, where it is really hot most of the year. Find him on Twitter, Google +, and Facebook by searching on 'fenraven'.
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24 Responses to Worst Hospital I’ve Ever Been In

  1. Linda Jude says:

    Wow, as a nurse I am both sad and infuriated reading this! I am so sorry you both had to go through all of this and that R had to suffer such indignities! There was no call for staff to treat him like that! So unprofessional but more important, where was the compassion?! Many positive thoughts sent that he gets to feeling better, continues to take his meds and stop smoking! Good for you in writing this letter.. Also, does your local paper maybe have a section where ppl can write in complaints and opinions and such?

    • I’m looking into local media. R was not smoking last night, so I’m hopeful he can make that stick. My question is: if there have been so many complaints about this place, why haven’t they been shut down?

  2. valjo44 says:

    The hospital I work for has a stroke team on standby 24/7. The treatment you’re talking about, I believe, needs to be given within 4 hours of symptoms. It helps preserve brain function in stroke victims. Not a lot of hospitals are set up with this system….but if the hospital you were in can not provide care the patient needs they should transfer immediately to a facility that can provide that care. It’s crazy how many stories like this you hear, everywhere. I spent 16 days in the hospital I work for being treated like a crazed slut……I had a ruptured appendix that cooked for six days because the doctor was absolutely sure it was an STD even though I had not been sexually active in more the ten years. So instead of believing me he asked me about my sex toys and did I share them did I know how to clean them. I even left the hospital after four days but had to go back in the same day, got the same doctor and it wasn’t until two days later he called in a gynecologist who took one look at me listened and called in a surgeon….went straight to OR and there it was no appendix, necrotic tissue, abscesses and my personal favorite gangrene. Lost part of my colon. My own hospital. I sued but didn’t really get compensated for all the pain and suffering. Six months off work. R should probably (should have gotten it in the hospital) get a referral to a neurologist. Get some testing to see if there is any brain damage. Watch for seizures. The blood from strokes can irritate brain tissue for a long time after the symptoms go away. I hate hospitals. Every patient needs a advocate…..just imagine what would have happened if you hadn’t been there! When my sister got to the hospital she went on the war path, I felt very protected and so glad she came. Probably should have a little less stoic and called her sooner😳 Sounds like he is making all the right changes…..63 is young with lots of years ahead…..

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    • Thanks for your comment. I hate hospitals too. It’s why I tend to avoid all things medical. When I feel terrible for no apparent reason, even if I get scared about it, I stay home, thinking it’ll pass. So far, so good, but like R, there will come a day when I know I won’t be able to ignore a set of symptoms anymore and will go to the ER.

      You are damned lucky you didn’t die! What morons! That doctor sounds like an asshole.

  3. Jaycee Edward says:

    Wow. So different here. You pull up and are met by security at the door who either offers you a wheelchair and helps you out of the car and into the ER. The free valet then parks your car. Every time I took my mom, they whisked us back to the exam room and she was seen and evaluated right away. Some girl comes later to deal with paperwork. Every person who comes in identifies themselves and their position. When you leave, you get a card listing every person’s name that you dealt with in case you want to give them props later. (Or bitch about them, which is no doubt the real reason behind that.) We have four major hospitals within a 30 min drive (and they’re building another) and three more world-class hospitals within an hour. I’m still reeling that they’d not immediately think ‘stroke’ with those symptoms. TB??? It’s a absolutely horrible that R had to go through that. Thank goodness you were there for him and have a good head on your shoulders.

    • After the fact, I’m proud of how I handled things. Normally, I don’t do well under stress, but I sailed through this with no problem whatsoever, not falling apart until after he was home again, and then all I did was take a nap. I needed sleep badly after not getting much for two nights.

      This would not have happened in MN or WI, either. Considering how many seniors are down here in Florida, you’d think they’d offer first-rate, top-quality medical care, wouldn’t you? I’m so disappointed to find out that isn’t the case.

      I’ve since been told to use the hospital in Cape Coral or Gulf Coast Med Center. The only problem with that is they are at least forty minutes away, and you don’t always have that much time in an emergency.

  4. Yvonne says:

    My daughter and I were just discussing how lucky we are to live where we do. What a terrible story. Hope R will be alright.

    • So far, so good. He’s nearly back to his old self. It’s a terrible feeling when you know you can’t depend on the nearest medical facility to offer the care you expect. Who even thinks about this?? One simply expects every hospital to be the best.

  5. Jaycee Edward says:

    I want to second what valjo44 said. You need an advocate. When my stepdaughter was in one of the hospitals here (yeah…they make mistakes too…) they totally wrote her off. Gave her Last Rites, called us in to tell us there was nothing more we could do. She was 36. Thankfully, two of her friends were with us who – one an EMT and the other worked at another hospital. They told us to get an advocate and demand to have her transferred to Cleveland Clinic. We did and 12 years later, she’s still living a healthy, happy life with a new heart. The moment we walked into CC they gave us nothing but hope. There’s a reason they call it ‘world class care’.

  6. Helena Stone says:

    Oh man. I have (way too much) experience when it comes to hospitals, both here and in the Netherlands and while there is a lot I could complain about in both countries, nothing quite as scary or careless as what you encountered. I’m glad R came through it all right, almost despite the hospital’s best efforts to make sure he didn’t it seems.
    Unfortunately hospitals and doctors get a way with shit like this all too often because patients and their families tend to be in awe of these ‘gods’ who have the training to make them better and safe their lives. It’s ‘funny’ how reluctant that makes a person to create too big a fuss. It took me some time before I realised doctors are not, in fact, ‘gods’. I’m just grateful I found my fighting spirit before they subjected me to an operation I didn’t need and which would probably have killed me.
    R is blessed to have you as his friend and maybe this experience was a blessing in disguise. As bad as it was, at least now you both know never to go back there again. Because next time it might be a life-threatening mistake. ❤

    • The second day, after R recovered his speech, he let them have it. He yelled at the head nurse, he yelled at the tech, he yelled at the “house supervisor,” insisting he did not have TB, wasn’t taking anymore antibiotics, and was probably smarter than all of them.

      As it happens, R is a trained scientist, and I’d put his IQ up against any of theirs. 😉

  7. Allison says:

    I’m so sorry. This is appalling. I hope something comes of your letter, but I really hope that R doesn’t have any lasting problems from this experience. ((Hugs)) to you both.

    • Last night, he seemed pretty much back to normal, other than a lingering fatigue. He’s been sleeping seven or eight hours a night instead of his usual five or six, but I see nothing wrong with that. He went through a nasty experience last week and is still recovering. In another couple weeks, he’ll probably be fine.

  8. TymberDalton says:

    Holy. Crap.

    Unfortunately, as the mother of a disabled child, I’ve had plenty of experience standing up for patient care for myself and others. When my grandmother had her first heart attack, I was 90 minutes away. By the time I reached the hospital (a large, well-known one in Tampa) they’d transferred her from the ER to the cardiac unit, but she was incoherent (her mind was sharp as a tack), and combative. I immediately demanded a stroke eval. They were basically patting me on the head and telling me they were waiting for “test results” (but no stroke eval had been done, yet they couldn’t tell us what exactly had happened other than she’d coded in the ambulance and was awake again in the ER).

    After about 15 minutes of this, I finally got mad and got loud and said if I didn’t have the unit supervisor there in five minutes, I would be walking down to the hospital administrator’s office, going into their office, and demanding why an elderly patient with NO history of dementia was NOT being given a stroke eval. FINALLY, they listened to me and did a stroke eval.

    The next morning, she was back to “normal” (and they’d figured out it was a heart attack) and the nurse, who’d also been on duty the day before, apologized to me for not listening to me. (We also had an older cousin who was a nurse who was there, too, but she was too upset to be of much help because she was trying to comfort my mom.) He (the nurse) was like, yeah, I get NOW why you were so upset, and you were completely right to chew us all out for that, and I promise in the future to do a better job of listening to the patient’s family.

    THEN, that night, she had another episode. The next night after yet another episode, it was her night nurse who figured it out. My grandmother, who’d had very few health issues in her life, and very few medications, was allergic to one of the meds they were giving her (which upon looking at her records, the night nurse figured out she’d been given in the ER upon her arrival, which also coincided with the onset of her symptoms). So they stuck an allergy bracelet on her and noted it in her files and didn’t give it to her again.

    Imagine that, she had NO more incidents of that while in the hospital. *smdh*

    I once had to educate a pediatric surgery resident doing a stint with a surgeon who regularly dealt with disabled children who had latex allergies that RUBBER AND LATEX ARE THE SAME THING. I mean, seriously, he did NOT know that and nearly used a stethoscope adapter (made out of rubber) on my son (who was clearly labelled latex precautions). I told him not only did he need to throw the damn thing away, he needed to thoroughly wash his stethoscope, his hands, and that he’s damn lucky I noticed it before he used it on a child who had anaphylactic reactions to latex (of which there was one just down the hall, their room door marked with huge printed neon warning signs). I told the nurses on the floor, who were shocked and appalled at the guy and who promised they’d keep an eye on him, and then I called the surgeon and warned her, and she tripped all over herself apologizing for that and promised to make sure she had her entire staff re-educated, including all residents.

    I’m talking yes, this was almost 20 years ago, when latex precautions for special needs kids weren’t as strict as they are today, but still, it was at a children’s hospital where latex allergies/precautions were common protocols even back then, because they were a regional center used to dealing with a LOT of kids with latex allergies.

    I learned from shortly after my son’s birth that sometimes, if being patient and reasonable don’t work, you HAVE to get loud (not disrespectful) to get their attention, and then once you have that attention, you can calmly talk to them. But sometimes the noise-to-signal ratio in hospital settings is so crazy that things go over their head. I get it, they’re overworked and underpaid and plenty of patients are assholes.

    HOWEVER.

    In the case like you’re discussing, I would seriously encourage your friend to talk to an attorney. That sounds like a malpractice case ready to happen right there. There’s no excuse not to start with a stroke eval, and it sounds like the facility needs a complete overhaul from the ground up.

  9. Renee Mendonca says:

    U-N-A-C-C-E-P-T-A-B-L-E!!!

  10. diannegray says:

    Wow – I pressed ‘like’ but I don’t ‘like’. This is just totally unacceptable. What were these people thinking?!! When my father-in-law had his stroke we were told by the doctors that the faster you get into care the less damage is done. Poor R must have been beside himself (and so must you have been). We’ve got pretty good treatment here. Ambulance is free so we never have to drive anyone to hospital and the medics are on hand as soon as they pull up. They start treatment straight away. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for you. What a horror – from the nurse ending each sentence with ‘okay’ to the suspicion of TB to no stroke treatement – wow, I’m so glad you wrote this letter.
    Please keep us updated on R’s condition xxx

    • I’m contacting my insurance company today to find out what hospitals are covered under my plan. If this is the only one, a stink will be raised, and they’ll get an earful.

  11. A.M.B. says:

    I am so sorry to hear that R had a stroke and that the care he received was so careless (for lack of a better word). You are a great advocate for him. I hope the hospital learns from these mistakes and improves the care their patients receive.

    • I hope they learn too, but I seriously doubt it. Too many people have dissed that place, and it seems no improvements have been made. 😦 My insurance company tells me I am not restricted to that facility, which was a relief. My other choice has gotten thumbs-up from many friends.

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