“Please accept this letter as a formal notification to you that all the physicians at Emory Clinic are formally withdrawing from your care. We wish to terminate the physician/patient relationship that has been established because we are unable to meet your expectations.”
As I awaited Dr. V’s return from maternity leave it seemed like an eternity. The Dysautonomia continued to spiral out of control and still no treatment for it seemed forthcoming. My digestive tract took turns with my blood pressure and heart rate wreaking havoc on my body. The weight-loss continued, and my hair began falling out. I found it in my bedsheets, on my clothes, on the floor, in the bathtub and it even fell into my food during those periods when I could eat. The Patient Portal had grown eerily silent, and though I occasionally left symptom updates for Dr. V’s Nurse Practitioner it seemed almost as though the conversation had gone cold and for a time I wondered whether anyone was reading (except for Administration whose new pastime seemed to be keeping tabs on me). It became evident that nobody was going to fill in for Dr. V to write orders in her absence and to this day I don’t know why, nor could I get a straight answer to this question when I directly asked staff. I figured why waste all this time for the 3 months she was away when we could be actively working on the problem.
The Nurse Practitioner eventually told me she was forwarding my correspondence to Dr. V at home and that was some consolation. It turned out Dr. V was in agreement with my getting back on IV saline given the fact that there was not a whole lot else to be done about it other than to load me up on beta blockers which neither she nor I wanted. Even so, she held off on writing the order herself while she was home and nobody else wrote it either.
The Gastroenterologist, Dr. J.M. was reluctant to venture into that territory, viewing it as the job of Neurology, and though she was cordial enough she seemed to be very traditional and more in favor of treating the GI symptoms individually with a pill for each one. She did do a couple tests though, so it was a start. Other than the waxing and waning of my symptoms punctuated by several acute crises of near syncope, nausea, headache, and vomiting, everything else for awhile anyway was uneventful and I was grateful for that.
I thought maybe finally Administration had turned their attention to other matters, but no such luck. Just when I thought it might be safe to go on with my life and my medical care and that maybe things would eventually iron themselves out I received a certified letter, then soon after, another copy of the same one in my mailbox with the dreaded logo on the left-hand corner in that severe, bold font in dark denim blue. I wondered what fresh hell they were cooking up this time and all the while hoped it was good news, but when I opened it, the audacity hit me full in the face like a mean left hook. It was an official letter from Emory’s Chief Medical Officer (not the male I’d been told held that position several months ago but this time, a woman whose name was unfamiliar). This was not long after I’d received the report from Patient Relations merely parroting Dr. B’s response and that of his direct supervisor who had not returned my call as she’d promised during the time before Dr. B officially bowed out. I’d called to follow up with Patient Relations and got their voicemail so I’d left a message telling them I was still sick and asked what exactly Emory was planning to do about that. For weeks I’d received no response. Although irritating I wasn’t surprised considering how useless their “investigations” had been before. It now seemed clear that the letter was meant to act as a response, but instead of offering some sort of olive branch, concession, or compromise to come to some positive resolution the content of the letter pushed further in the opposite direction upping the ante from the once rather off-hand suggestion that I could always choose to go someplace else if I was dissatisfied to now directly telling me I was being kicked out by the Royal WE which was the entirety of Emory Healthcare. This is something that they don’t legally have the right to do because they’re considered a non-profit organization and the conditions under which they receive federal funding dictate that they cannot discriminate nor refuse treatment to patients who come to them asking for an appointment. The doctors employed by Emory although technically employees are individuals, and some are better than others.
I have never maintained that every single one of them is crappy and I made that very clear to Patient Relations. I give credit where credit is due and I don’t blame those doctors who are genuinely trying to help for the shenanigans perpetrated by certain other individuals who choose to continue to exercise poor judgment or engage in malicious acts against me.
Despite the vicious nature of the corporate entity there are some good and caring doctors there and it is unfair for some corporate mouthpiece to be so presumptuous as to say she speaks for them. I’m sure that there are many doctors whom would blanch if they only knew how unethical those in the ivory tower behaved, and some might even decide they didn’t want to work for such an evil empire that so callously dismisses patients still needing care.
Hypocritically, Emory spends probably millions (possibly even billions of dollars) on patient satisfaction surveys, yet when a patient gives honest feedback that is negative about an experience there they are personally attacked. This information should be used to improve the system, not used against the patient, and nearly all federal civil rights laws have a requirement that the claimant not be retaliated against for filing a grievance, yet this is exactly what has been done to me.
If I were one of the decision-makers at Emory I would take that money currently spent on surveys that are used just to pump up their false image and all the new buildings being erected around town and put it towards hiring more doctors. More buildings will not make Emory better, that depends on the people in charge and it is incumbent upon them to earn the reputation they so badly want. More buildings cost money and it is highly likely that the care each patient receives will suffer and more rationing will result.
Not long after I had my colonoscopy I developed a horrible urinary tract infection and needed to call the Gynecology clinic to make an appointment since it had been awhile since the doctor there T.M. had seen me in the office, so although it was obviously e-coli she could not just call in a prescription before seeing me to culture it and make sure she was giving the right antibiotic. As it turned out, she had no openings for about 2 weeks and this thing was growing like a weed by the day, so it needed to be taken care of within the next day or two or I was going to end up back in the emergency room. That was how serious an infection I had! The weekend was quickly approaching and I wasn’t looking forward to being stuck with it until the following Monday. The call center informed me that they did have an opening at Emory St. Joseph’s location, but when the representative attempted to schedule me she kept on running into a wall.
“This thing won’t let me advance to the next screen,” she said. “I’m getting a full stop!” I asked if the system were down and she said no, but she wasn’t sure why it wasn’t working now but thought it was a temporary malfunction. I told her in the meantime to have a nurse call me.
Not long afterwards I received a phone call from a nurse, M. whom it didn’t dawn on me until halfway through the conversation was Dr. B’s nurse. I wondered why his nurse in Primary Care would be calling when I had been trying to get an appointment with Gynecology, not her clinic. She told me “You’ve been dismissed from the clinic.” I calmly told her that they could not legally deny me treatment, that it was against Federal law, to which she got very nasty. This was odd that she would seem to have a dog in the fight, but then it suddenly occurred to me that most likely it had been she who had initiated the ban in the first place as revenge for my clearing the air with Dr. B. on the Patient Portal. Obviously there was gossip taking place behind the scenes (more unprofessional behavior than I’d known). Dr. B. was a big boy and it was petty that this woman was fighting his battles for him. She raised her voice, talking over me rudely, telling me I’d have to go somewhere else.
“Where exactly do you suggest I go on a Thursday afternoon?” I asked.
“I don’t know, you’ll just have to go somewhere else.”
” That is illegal” I reiterated. “Emory Clinics get federal funding so you have to accept patients who wish to make an appointment. You cannot discriminate or cherry-pick. I’m an established patient with this doctor and have been for several years”.
“Go someplace else!” She yelled into the phone and hung up. I called the call center immediately and reported what had just happened. A young woman in the call center apologized and said that I shouldn’t have been treated that way and gave me the name of a man who was the supervisor there and said she’d leave a message for him to call me, but he never did.
By the skin of my teeth I was able to get help from a mobile primary care service. Initially they were going to try to get home healthcare out here to get a urine sample to culture but that fell through and we found out that they didn’t do that kind of thing, so a Nurse Practitioner from the mobile service took mercy on me as she too was concerned about my having to wait through the weekend because of the severity of the infection. She called in a prescription for 14 days of Cipro. It turned out I needed all 14 days because the infection was pretty entrenched! Clearly my immune system is compromised, as it seemed to have sprung up overnight and became full-blown faster than normal and was affecting me systemically by the time Friday rolled around. Once I got the antibiotic it took awhile before I noticed feeling any better although slowly but surely the infection started to abate.
I looked up information on this Chief Medical Officer and discovered ironically that she’s an OBGYN herself! Surely she knows what untreated e-coli infection does to the human body, especially to someone chronically ill who is immune compromised. She should be ashamed of herself! What doctor with any sense of ethics does that! She needs to remove the block from my account immediately!
Then a few weeks later I began feeling severely faint and nauseated and ended up in the ER again. The ER doctor at St. Joseph’s wanted me to follow up with my Cardiologist in just a few days but he had no openings until July, so I searched out a Primary Care doctor and luckily was able to get an appointment sooner. She seems very nice and was open to my starting back on IV Saline infusion and was willing to order it but wanted my neurologist to fax her something saying she was OK with it first. She also thought I should see an endocrinologist as she said that there are certain endocrine problems that can cause Dysautonomia.
Dr. V. returned to work and I saw her on June 3rd. We had a long conversation and I told her everything that has happened and she was very understanding. I detected none of the pushiness I’d seen in the first appointment. I thought maybe she was feeling under pressure knowing she’d be giving birth any time, so maybe what I saw the first time wasn’t her usual personality. During this second appointment she seemed very warm and caring and I could tell she really felt for what I’ve been going through and wanted to set the record straight. She is in total support of my having these out of town evaluations and said that Emory is woefully lacking in the right equipment to do this type of autonomic testing. She told me she wanted to know how the two upcoming appointments with the specialists go. Then she ordered a number of blood tests related to various endocrine things to give the endocrinologist a head-start and one or two tests that could be done at their lab on mold. I left there feeling a sense of renewed hope, but then I got home and found that I couldn’t set up the next follow-up appointment with her. I finally have a neurologist who is invested in me and I want to continue seeing her, and make no mistake about it I intend to fight to do so.