Emory Turns Patient Away At Clinic; The Last Straw

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Butting heads

Just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse…on Thusday, June 30th they did. Transportation came late and my assistant and I were worried we’d get there too late to be seen at Dr. T’s office at Emory Sleep Medicine at  the 12 Executive Park location. The driver was confused and was about to take us to Clifton  Rd. (main campus) but I told him he was heading the wrong way and he turned around just in time stating his GPS was taking him the long way.

There was no time for wrong turns. I was on a mission to bring airline forms to Dr. T. and Dr. V. (whose offices luckily were in the same building) regarding my oxygen concentrator.

I’d printed out forms for both Delta and United figuring those were the most likely two that the GA. Medical Care Foundation might book the trips with. I would need one or the other of the two doctors to sign off on my need to bring my oxygen on board the plane so that I’d run into no problems when it came time to travel.

Document Signing

We got off the van and went to the 4th floor where Dr. T’s office was located. We arrived to find a packed waitingroom. There was a heavy-set black female patient at the front desk carrying out a lengthy transaction to reschedule an appointment. She was wearing a portable oxygen concentrator and the young receptionist behind the counter lingered, typing on her computer. It seemed as though I sat there for 5 minutes. I looked at my watch seeing it was 10:45 already and still not checked in. The last thing I needed was to be considered late on such a crucial day.

The night before I’d sent detailed messages via the Patient Portal to both doctors so that things would would go smoothly and hopefully the forms for the airlines would be signed and handed back to me while I was there, but no such luck.

As my assistant and I waited I saw Dr. T pass through the receptionist area. I waived expectantly to her and she made eye contact with me and smiled her acknowledgement on her way in and out of one of the adjacent rooms. All the while I had no idea what was to come. I thought she’d be coming out to see me shortly, but the next thing I knew a portly, middle-aged white woman with shoulder-length wavy blonde hair called me back.

“Hi” I greeted her. “Are you the nurse?”

The woman stammered a bit and explained that no she wasn’t but that she’d explain. I followed her to a room on the hallway to the left-side of the receptionist desk. As we entered one of the rooms she sat behind a small computer desk and I in my wheelchair, across from her. Not wanting to waste another minute I launched into my request about the airline forms that I needed the doctor to sign. I explained that I was due to travel on July 6th, just a few days away. It was clear from her response that she was fully aware of my Portal message from the night before, but she stopped me in mid-sentence.

“Before you get started, I need to tell you; I’m the Office Manager. Patient Relations has been calling us all morning telling us that you’ve been terminated from the clinic and that we aren’t allowed to see you. I was going to save you the trip over here but it seems you’d already left. Because of the termination I can’t give those forms to Dr. T. She won’t be able to speak with you or fill them out.”

I felt suddenly as though someone had punched me in the gut. I could hardly believe that after all this that Administration was still placing obstacles in my way. It was at this point that the full impact hit me. Tears began pouring from my eyes.

“Look”, I said. “This is what happened. I was abused in the ER in December and instead of doing the right thing and correcting the problem Administration is covering it up.”

“I don’t know the story” she replied.

“Well now you do,” I said looking her dead in the eye. “I am honest as the day is long! They called in a sadistic neurologist to scare me and he beat me with his hammer, then had his female resident come back into the room afterwards and plop her butt down on my foot. Then he put defamatory things in my chart to destroy all my doctor/patient relationships so I could never get help. This was an impaired professional with an anger management problem.

Goofy doctor

Think about it. If I were what they’re painting me as I would be in a mental hospital right now after the past 7 months of harrassment Administration has put me through since the incident. You have no idea the tactics I’ve been subjected to. I must be one hell of a strong woman to withstand all that and still be talking to you rationally as I am now! This is not right! I was the victim, not the perpetrator and now I’m being punished for something they did to me!

Vulnerability

“That’s all the more reason why you should probably get your care outside of here and start somewhere fresh” said the Office Manager.

Tears continued to flow down my cheeks. “This cannot be allowed to happen. This is not the time!”, I pleaded. “I’m actively ill! It’s not like I’m coming in for a routine check-up. I really needed this appointment. I’m so sick that I need to go out of town to these top level specialists to get more advanced testing than I can get here, but nevertheless, I still need my neurologists here locally to come back to afterwards. Dr. T treats me for the Myoclonus. and Dr. V  was fully intending to help me get these evaluations but Administration is sabotaging my trip!

Suitcase-travel

I’m supposed to leave on July 6th! I don’t have time to start over right now with all new doctors. Don’t you understand? I’m sick and need to go soon so they can find out why! I’m waking up multiple times a night choking and gasping for air. My hair is falling out. I’m Dysautonomic and nobody knows why. They can’t do it here in Georgia!” 

Plane in blue sky

“I’m not a clinical person”, said the blonde-haired woman. “I’m just an Office Manager so I don’t know what to tell you in regards to that.”

“Also, I need those sleep study tapes because the specialists need to see my abnormal movements for themselves. The reports don’t go into enough detail although they had some EMG leads on me. The report didn’t document the rate of the jerking, only said that they picked up the movements but that they weren’t PLM. They are some sort of Myoclonus but they don’t know what specifically. They present at the onset of sleep and only under certain other circumstances like when I’m lying on a hard surface or my upper body gets too cold.”

“The reports will be good enough. The problem with providing the tapes is that it requires a certain kind of software to view them that’s not compatible with anybody else’s.” On the face of it that sounded a flimsy excuse at best, and at worst it may have been a lie.

“These out-of-town appointments took months to get” I continued, “and if I have to reschedule it could be up to a year for me to get another appointment…And also…I need to tell you something. I have (condition that can’t be named at this time) which is a neuro disorder; not psych, and therefore I don’t do well with this sort of disruption to my life. What they’re doing is really not good for me.”

The Office Manager seemed to soften for a moment. “I understand, and I empathize, but there’s nothing I can do” she said lamely. “Because we’re not a private practice the doctors here have to go by what they say to do. It’s now in the hands of Patient Relations.”

“Patient Relations is just a mouthpiece for Administration”, I replied. “They aren’t going to do anything. Do you want to know what their idea of an investigation is? They ask the perpetrators what their side of the story is, write it up, and send it to the patient. That is not a fair and unbiased investigation! I used to work as a patient advocate. I was instrumental in designing the Protection & Advocacy system in the state of Georgia. I never did my investigations like that!

I pulled the forms from my white 3-ring binder. “Here. Give these to Dr. T. just in case. Without this I can’t board the plane with my oxygen concentrator.

Corporate

She needs to go to bat for me as my doctor! Have her tell Administration that blocking my care here and sabotaging my trip is putting the patient at risk. Have her advocate for me!” 

The office manager looked at me from across the desk. There was a sense of futility in her body language. I found it increasingly difficult to look at her.

It seemed as though tears came in waves and then in-between got stuck and wouldn’t come out. I felt as though the wind were knocked out of me. I covered my eyes and leaned forward in my wheelchair teetering on my seat. I opened my mouth and no sound would come out.

Somehow it seemed especially cruel knowing that Dr. T. was just a room or two away but could not come in and speak to me. They didn’t even have the decency to let me talk with her one last time.

Even that being the case, all they had to do was have her sign my forms and bring them back to me but The Almighty GD Administration was like a huge fart in the room, rancid and putrid and taking precedence over everything that was rational.

Death

The Office Manager was like a deer in the headlights, a lemming walking automatically over a cliff. Only one thought entered my mind at that moment. No job is worth casting a patient still in need of care out into the street to God-knows-what fate. The finality of it all fell like a thud to the floor.

Smashing an egg

After awhile she followed me out into the waitingroom, still packed with patients. I was still crying. My assistant was not where I’d left her. The Office Manager asked me her name, I told her and she said she’d try to look for her. At first she couldn’t find her but came back and took me back the other way to a waiting area that was less crowded.

“I’m just getting you more upset” she said turning to her right as if to leave.

“No you aren’t. It’s not you, it’s them” (meaning Administration). I reached out my hand and she took it. This was bigger than either of us. She asked if I could wait there for a minute and she’d try again to find my assistant. I nodded. In a few minutes she returned with her. The Office Manager explained to my assistant what she’d said to me about Administration not allowing Dr. T. to see me. I told her to ask Dr. T. to do everything she can to stand up for me.

My assistant turned to her. “So you’re basically saying that she needs to find all new doctors?”

“Yes, pretty much”, said the Office Manager.

“Let’s go call transportation” my assistant said to me, turning away from the woman in disgust. “We can do it from downstairs.”

“I need to give these other airline papers to Dr. V. on the 5th floor first and try to talk with her nurse before we go.” We headed toward the elevators in the main hallway. As we were leaving the Office Manager called out after us “It might be a waste of time for you to go down there because Dr. V. won’t be able to do what you need her to do, but you can try. Good luck with everything.”

The first one to arrive was too full, so we opted to wait for the next. Once on the 5th floor I approached the reception desk and asked to speak with J. Dr. V’s nurse and the receptionist told me she’d call her.

In just a few minutes J. came out and introduced herself. She told me Dr. V. was only here on Fridays. I told her the situation and asked her to ask Dr. V. to advocate for me and advised her to get in touch with the Union rep about this situation because Administration is putting pressure on medical professionals to act against the best interest of patients. She said she would and wrote some notes on a small post-it pad.

I handed her the airline forms and asked her to give them to Dr. V. The nurse said she’d call me. Once we’d gotten home I checked my phone messages and found both the confirmation of that day’s appointment and a later message from A.B. of Patient Relations stating the appointment was cancelled. The following is a sound file of the confirmation and the message from Patient Relations.

 By the time my assistant left at 3:30 PM on Friday no call from the nurse had come in yet to confirm that the form had been completed and faxed over. 

The next call on the tape is from a contact person at Medicaid informing me on June 1st that the GA. Medical Care foundation had still not received my paperwork from my doctor. Late last night I saw a Patient Portal Message. I logged in and it was a goodbye letter from Dr. V.

Corporate had prohibited her and any of my other doctors from seeing me. A message just underneath from the nurse which merely typed the instructions for the GA. Medical Care Foundation process implied that the paperwork had never been filled out or faxed, thwarted by the top brass at Emory Healthcare.

No reason was given to Dr. V for the “release” as Corporate so euphamistically referred to the expulsion (as the real reason; discrimination and retaliation for filing a complaint is against Federal law so they wouldn’t admit to that).

I wrote back to her telling her that I don’t think I can bring myself to start over again with a new neurologist, that I wanted to keep seeing her and that maybe she should contact the Union and tell Emory to take this job and shove it if they wouldn’t budge on this issue.

I left her my number and asked her to call me if/when she goes into practice somewhere else. I said that there is a shortage of good female neurologists in the Atlanta area and especially ones who really care about patients, and that I could tell she does. When you’re ill like I am and have been through what I have, being more than just a number, having a doctor who cares if you live or die and is truly invested in you is especially important.

Until I’d spoken with the nurse the other day I thought she’d worked there fulltime but in fact it’s only half a day on Fridays, so I guess it wouldn’t be any big financial loss if she decided to tell them to stick it up their collective posterior!

I cried most of the night and woke up crying again this morning.

We are not a bunch of chess pieces (patients and doctors) for Administration to move around at will!

Next Move

We are people with real relationships! To destroy those relationships which can even determine life and death for a patient is to do harm!

Logistically I don’t know what will happen to me now or who will fill out the forms necessary so that I can get the care I need.

Blood pressure

What the suits in the ivory tower fail to understand is that in order to do those kinds of things a relationship, a connection must be there and the doctor has to care about you. You can’t just find that in any doctor, and if a patient finds a good one it’s best to keep them.

I looked out there plenty before I saw Dr. V and after the first appointment (knowing Emory had her by the short-hairs) and I didn’t find it. Then as I got to know her I realised she was it. She would have done all that…if Administration hadn’t in effect held a gun to her head not to.

If you are a patient who has been mistreated at Emory please see this post; and contact me privately to give me your written signed statement. It’s never too late to make your voice heard.

 

Medical Resources for Low Income or Uninsured

Help

Recent events have gotten me thinking now about the need for linkage with services to help chronically ill people when it becomes necessary to seek help outside their local communities. To know just how big a need there is out there you have only to look at GoFundMe, Youtube, and a variety of other public online forums. There is help available but it’s not always well-publicized. The financial cost alone to travel out of state can end up more than you have.

Most of the specialty clinics don’t cover lodging, and consultations are usually done on an outpatient basis, so that often requires staying in a hotel for several days on your own dime. For many on a low income and/or uninsured, this is impossibility without some financial assistance. The question is; where to look? When I found out that my local Medicaid transportation broker doesn’t transport people for over 50 miles, and the hotel fee for 4 or 5 days in just one of the two cities I need to travel to next month was going to cost most of my Disability check and that I would be forced to default on my regular monthly bills (already behind) in order to go and receive the more advanced medical help I need I was frantic and really bummed out

Oh No

I was able to find a non-profit organization called The Georgia Medical Care Foundation that covers airfaire, lodging, and food for the time one has to be away for special testing, assessment, and/or treatment. This organization is connected with DFACS (Dept. of Family and Children’s Services).

If you live in Georgia and need financial assistance for such a medical trip have your doctor call (678) 527-3000 and have them fax him/her their application form. They will want to know your name, date of birth, dates and addresses of your travel, and possibly some medical information. Once the doctor fills it out, faxes it back, and you’re approved it then goes to Ginger Henry, the contact person at DFACS who cuts the check (404) 657-3596.

At first somebody gave me incorrect information that the funding was probably by reimbursement (which would have made this an inaccessible option for me), but when I spoke with another representative I was told that it is issued to the patient and/or airline/hotel up-front.

My neurologist, Dr. V. left word yesterday through one of her nurse practitioners that she’d be the one to fill out the form ( a big relief, since as of my last post no doctor had yet committed). I need to call my contact at Medicaid in the morning to follow up on where my application is in the process. I hope Dr. V. got it filled out and faxed back yesterday.

In my search earlier for other resources I found this webpage you might find useful which covers resources throughout the US that are available to help with various medical needs. There is also a section where you can search by state. You can also contact your state legislature to find out if they have set aside an indigent care fund (many states do). Your local representative can probably tell you if such a fund exists where you live and find out what the process and criteria is to access it.

There are also some illness-specific groups and organizations that will help financially.

I’m having alot of pain extending from the center of my spine inward to my abdomen, feeling as if someone has kicked me in the stomach, and waking up every few hours each night now with my body temperature all dysregulated; burning hot, then freezing cold, so I hope that the doctors at these clinics can find out what’s causing this and that there is some treatment that will get it stabilized at least. It is getting to be a bit too much.

Burning Up

I had about 2 weeks reprieve from the GI symptoms but they are back again. Now when I go to the bathroom my bowels feel like I’m passing shards of glass, and yesterday evening I noticed the toilet paper dotted with blood, and both back and front feels raw. I can’t tell whether I have another infection or if it’s something related to my Dysautonomia, or a combination of both. It’s 5:42 in the morning and I just took some pain medication so that I can hopefully get some sleep before the personal assistant comes at 9:30 AM.

 

More Delays on Out-of-town Specialist Appointments

Ain't It The Pits - Photo for WordPress Blog DSC_0023

Nothing about this diagnostic process has gone smoothly, but transportation was the one thing I thought was wrapped up. I’d called Southeastrans (Medicaid’s transportation broker for this area) a month ago to find out what the process was and was told that they’d schedule these out-of-town trips just the same way as they did the in town trips; that I just needed to call their main scheduling number and they’d set it up.

Meanwhile I set about requesting all the necessary medical records (two discs for each of the two doctors). 

The sleep study tapes were elusive and I found out that Radiology nor Medical records has those accessible; that they were handled by another records department connected with Sleep Medicine. After about a full 2 days I finally got routed to the right department, but initially only the latest sleep study (July 2015) was showing up in the computer database. I had 3 sleep studies in all (each of which yield important data that any top level specialist will be able to see the significance of in the diagnosis of multi-system disease). Researchers who are up on the latest medical knowledge understand that sleep studies are often the first sign of such disease processes and they give important markers that may not be fully detectible via other tests for years. Finally after much searching around somebody suddenly located the other 2 tapes and I was told they were being copied onto dics as we spoke. 

I suddenly found that people who answered the phone in the various departments and call centers were greeting me in an uncharacteristically friendly and helpful way, asking if I were “having a good day”, some almost as if they knew who I was, and this time when I called to schedule my follow-up appointment with Dr. V. the appointment went through! Suddenly people were actually returning my calls again and they were not proxys but those whom I had asked to call me back!

It remains to be seen whether or not everything is unblocked now since they received my cease and desist letter. I hope it is and that I will have no further blocks on my scheduling from here on out. I have since received no explanation via Patient Relations nor from Administration directly as to whom initiated the block and the circumstances under which their Chief Medical Officer was called in.

Good old Dr. H. the pulmonologist may have helped me much more than he knows. Even if he (the subjective human) has or had doubts in the short-term about my underlying condition(s), his objective data reveals important tuths that can’t be denied. Within these studies could lie the key to my underlying condition(s) and when viewed by the right specialists who understand patterns and correlations it could be my salvation, and will very likely get my treatment back on track.

Maybe in time he will come to understand that his hunch about a central process in the Pons and/or Medula was correct all along. (Afterall, that was one theory as to why I had the slowness of muscle transmission in my left leg EMG results). Not that anyone would want something to be wrong there, but sometimes a doctor’s admitting he was wrong in his doubts of his first instinct and the patient’s instinct is the best thing for the patient and for the doctor/patient relationship. If the underlying condition(s) can be identified, caught early enough, and treated with the best science has to offer, maybe all’s well that ends well, and all of us can go home satisfied.

I have always and will always maintain that my team of doctors need to keep their eye on the ball and avoid becoming waylayed and distracted by other agendas. The doctor/patient relationship is paramount, and anything that stands in the way of it must be removed. Such distractions are exactly that; distractions, and must be put aside if one is to serve the best interest of the patient. This is an ethical and moral imperative above all else.

There is enough evidence now that something serious is going on in my body, and so I hope from here on out my doctors can dispense with any questions they may have had in their own minds as to that reality, so that we can put our collective effort into finding out what that is.

Well, back to the transportation issue which pulls all this together; I called Southeastrans last week to set up the trips to these two out-of-state specialists and suddenly got the response from the scheduler “We don’t do that.” The scheduler got her supervisor on the phone and she told me that even my Florida trip was too far for Southeastrans to travel; that their broker system only takes people within a 50  mile radius. She did not know of anything else. My heart sank. Knowing that this is a major consideration and that I cannot afford to cover transportation out of pocket with my tiny Disability check amount, I persisted, asking what the process is to get it authorized, as I knew I’d heard from other patients that they were covered for longer-distance trips, especially when their home state did not have the proper testing facilities and specialists and were at an impasse. Surely they couldn’t just leave indigent patients up a creek without a paddle.

The hotel in Cleveland Ohio has been booked, appointments have been made, and records have been ordered on disc, along with many hours of logistical telephone calls, blood, sweat and tears on my part. I have done the majority of the work myself to facilitate these independent evaluations and I was going to be damned if a technicality so idiotic would stand in the way now. I called the Medicaid Commissioner’s office whose aid then put me in touch with another department and there I spoke with a man and a woman who basically told me it was not going to be a problem; that all I had to do was have my doctor fill out a form with a foundation affilliated with Medicaid that would cover airfaire, lodging, and food for my trips, but advised that my doctor start the process right away since time is running short.

I’m supposed to be boarding a plane bound for Cleveland, Ohio on July 6th, come  home Monday afternoon the 11th, and then head out to Gainesville, Florida early the morning of July 13th to arrive there at 9:30 AM for a full day of testing. It required my scheduling the Cleveland Clinic appointment 3 months in advance, and the one in Ganesville, FL, 6 months in advance. All their other doctors were booked a full year in advance, so I was lucky to get an opening in 6 months as it is!

I couldn’t imagine there would be any problem in having Dr. V. fill out the certification form so that this  non-profit organization could ensure these evaluations came to pass, but I was wrong in that assumption.

My detailed message containing the process, foundation’s phone number, and my necessary information sat on the Patient Portal for about 2 days un-forwarded (Dr. V. was unaware of its contents since somebody else needed to forward it to her first). As soon as I realized the doctor had not received it herself I called by phone and was told by a representative in “Brain Health” that she would then mark my message “high priority”.

Soon afterwards I received a reply with a nurse’s name on it as though she were forwarding a message from the doctor asking me to ask my new GP to fill out the form instead (the new GP who does not work for Emory). I could not believe this! There is no time to waste, and besides, why would Dr. V. not fill out the form when she herself wanted me to have these consults? It didn’t make sense. This is one delay that could throw a monkey wrench into the whole thing, and I don’t know how long it takes to process once the doctor does fill it out and submit it through the proper channels. My first date of travel is about a week and a half away (not counting weekends), and nothing is nailed down yet! I wrote back saying I would ask the new Primary Care doctor (Dr. P), but that if she says no and feels it’s the job of my neurologist to do since these are neurological consults, then I will still need Dr. V. to do it. I impressed upon her that time is ticking away and I can’t afford for anything to go wrong. I have not put in all this work and effort just to lose this opportunity.

With no local autonomic clinic close by, and my abnormal movements being not your average garden variety movement disorder, these doctors (if they care about me) should move heaven and earth to see that I make it to both appointments and do everything they can on their end to make it happen. It’s just the right thing to do. 

After I got off the Patient Portal I immediately wrote a letter to my new PCP with the same request I’d sent Dr. V and faxed it to her. I have since found another fax number on some other paperwork from her office and am faxing it to that number as well (to make absolutely sure she receives it).

I hope to God that when I follow up on Monday that I’m told it’s been done and being processed by the foundation that issues the funds and makes the arrangements and that all this will be in time for it to go off without a hitch! It has to! I don’t think I can wait another 3,6, or 12 months to reschedule and arrange this over again.

Last week some nice person in one of my chronic illness groups sent me the link to another woman (this one in Colorado who had received a letter very similar to the one I received from the Chief Medical Officer. This patient is a civil rights attorney.

It seems as though these big healthcare corporations are devising boilerplate FU letters to send patients when they’ve messed up and mismanaged somebody’s care and want to shift responsibility. Such letters are very unwise. The thing is, they will not hold up under federal non-discrimination laws and patients will prevail. Any legal department will clearly see that and advise the corporation to retract such actions.

It’s always a wiser tactic to do the right thing when you realized you’ve F’ed up a patient’s care and do something to correct it and satisfy them from that point forward than to follow one bad decision with another, follow one lie with a bigger lie. In the end no amount of money or image is worth covering up wrongdoing and throwing the patient under the bus. This is the care of human lives we’re dealing with here, not inanimate objects. Earn that image and you’ll have no problems.

There really is something to be said for going that extra mile for the patient rather than doing the least you can do or standing in their way. In healthcare even more than other businesses, true customer satisfaction is very important.

I sincerely hope that Dr. V. will come through when all is said and done and that she will have safe passage to help me maximally, unfettered by competing interests and unbeholden to her employer. As I said earlier; the doctor/patient relationship is paramount. I want to trust that in the end she will put my best interest first no matter what comes. I cannot be let down by one more neurologist.

Cease and Desist Letter Sent To Emory Healthcare

Blue Medical Scales of Justice

I found out that mercifully Dr. V had written the order for the IV Saline and faxed it over to my new primary care physician (outside of Emory), but apparently the new PCP needed her to do a physical examination. We’d had so much piled up from Dr. V’s 3 months away that there wouldn’t have been time for that even if we’d known it were needed, but I had no idea. It wasn’t until a nurse responded to me on the Patient Portal that I knew there was any hold-up.

On Thursday, June 16th I attempted to set up my next follow-up appointment, and was thwarted from doing so because of the block Emory’s Chief Medical Officer had placed on my account. Yesterday (Friday) I tried again after leaving a verbal message of Patient Relations’ voicemail that Emory was violating Federal Civil Rights Non-descrimination laws, and that they need to remove the block on my account immediately. I received no response Thursday, nor Friday, and on Friday when I again attempted to schedule an appointment with Dr. V for sometime in the last two weeks of June or for once I’d have returned home from Cleveland Clinic and UF from the two specialists in mid to late July, I found that the block was still in place. Today I decided to submit a cease and desist letter via Emory Healthcare’s Patient Relations Department on Emory’s website. Here it is below; 

Letter to Patient Relations Sent Saturday, June 18th Via Emory’s Web-form

 I called Patient Relations and got only a voicemail at your phone number (I believe it was on June 16th around noon) at (404) 778-3539. I left a message regarding the fact that Administration, (specifically P. Z. C., MD) has issued a block on my ability to schedule future appointments with any of my doctors at Emory. A licensed physician who does such a thing, superseding and thwarting care by a patients’ own physicians is violating the Hippocratic Oath by maliciously standing in the way and creating barriers to access when the patient is in need of medical care.

 Because of her actions I was denied care for a severe urinary tract infection at Emory Gynecology when I attempted to set up an appointment with my established doctor there. A nurse by the name of M. (at Emory St. Joseph’s Clinic which had the earliest available Gynecology clinic appointment) called me back to inform me I had been “dismissed from the clinic” and rudely talked over me, stating I’d have to go someplace else. When I informed her that refusing care by a non-profit organization is a violation of federal law she yelled into the phone that I’d have to go somewhere else, and then hung up on me.

 I believe this is the same M. that is a nurse of my former primary care physician at Emory St. Joseph’s Clinic, but in Primary Care. The Clinic I was trying to get an appointment with was Gynecology so I do not know why a nurse from Primary Care was calling me.

 Gynecology could not call in the needed antibiotics without seeing me first, so I had to make cold calls to outside physicians on the spur of the moment in order to catch it in time and even then it took all of 14 days to clear it up. I have chronic susceptibility to e-coli infections of the urinary tract. If a mobile physician group had not stepped in to write the prescription for Cipro ASAP I would most likely have had to go to the ER because it was already beginning to affect me systemically. Being an OBGYN herself I am sure Dr. C. is aware of the effect untreated e-coli has on the human body.

 I informed Patient Relations that this is against federal law and that therefore this block must be removed immediately or the corporation risks federal discrimination charges. My call was not returned by the end of business that day nor the next full day (Friday, June 17th). On the 17th I again attempted to schedule my follow-up with my neurologist at the Executive Park location who fully intends to help me and wants to see me on an ongoing basis. She has been away on maternity leave and there was alot that was backed up needing to catch up on when I saw her last on June 3rd and she needs to examine me to start certain services I need. Although I am scheduled to see some out of town sub-specialists I still want and need to keep her as my local neurologist.

 Such decisions should be between me and my doctor and therefore Administration needs to stay the hell out of my confidential relationship with my doctor. I do not know this corporate executive Chief Medical Officer and although she might be a physician she does not have the standing to make medical decisions above the heads of me and the doctors that I choose to enter into a doctor/patient relationship with. This is a malicious and retaliatory act on the part of Administration to prevent me from proving my condition and setting the record straight. Their actions show clear-cut manipulation of my care and an attempt to prevent my obtaining the true diagnosis of my disease-process.

 Retaliation for filing a grievance is an added violation under federal law from which no Emory regulation will provide them immunity. The further they push this agenda the more violations they’ll accrue.

 I don’t know if certain petty individuals consider this their idea of fun or what, but it is a very dangerous game they’re playing, I do not find it amusing and I intend to defend my civil rights to the fullest extent of the law, as a patient with several already established serious autoimmune diseases, I consider their acts of obstruction, patient-dumping, and medical neglect as a corporation a threat upon my life.

 In addition to having the ban lifted, I would like to know exactly who initiated it, why, and how this top executive was brought in.

 This harassment of me has gone on since December when I was abused in the Emergency room and reported it, and it is very clear now that the corporation is attempting to dispense with me as a way to further cover it up.

 Obviously, the corporation is corrupt all the way to the top brass and uses strong-arm tactics to silence those who speak honestly about incidents such as what happened to me (and it is a matter of public record that they’ve resorted to dirty tricks against their own former employees whom have had the courage to stand up and become whistleblowers to report corporate corruption when they saw it at Emory).

 When sending a man to scare and beat me into submission didn’t shut me up, they decided to resort to kicking me out.

 Clearly they underestimate a woman fighting for her life. Given my advocacy background it would be in their best interest for them to cease and desist any further interference with my medical testing and treatment, get out of the way and allow me to pursue my medical care in peace with those doctors with whom I have a good rapport; with those whom genuinely want to help me, whose motives are pure and are in the field of medicine for compassionate reasons.

 I do not bother anybody who doesn’t attack me first, and I am only interested in justice, maintaining my freedom to choose my medical relationships, to obtain my care in a timely, respectful, and compassionate manner, to be allowed to give honest feedback without fear of reprisal, and to be afforded my civil rights to healthcare without interference and impedance, my care plan determined jointly between me and the doctors of my choosing without any sort of conflict-of-interest, pressure or duress from “above”.

 There is absolutely nothing unreasonable about that “expectation” and nothing that justifies my being blocked from scheduling appointments at Emory Healthcare nor anyplace else.

 I am writing you on Saturday, June 18th and I look forward to hearing from you on Monday, June 20th that the block has been lifted and that I can resume scheduling appointments with doctors I wish to continue working with.

Pippit Carlington

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The letter was submitted at 6: 55 PM, Saturday, June 18th, 2016. I hope this will get through to them that I am serious and that they need to stop these vicious and irresponsible games. What I’ve been subjected to over the past 7 months is institutional bullying and I don’t take that sort of cruelty lying down. If this corporation intends to kill me either actively or passively it will continue to be documented in as close to real time as possible and sooner or later they will be caught and the full weight of the law will come down on them.

Just as Administration is watching this blog, so are others whose job it is to protect patients like me, and I’m sure that I’m not the only patient this type of thing has happened to at Emory. It may be that I’m the first patient to make it public, but a good background search will reveal that Emory has a long and sordid pattern of vicious and underhanded attacks against dissenters, and of discriminatory practices (mostly on the University side), but there have been documented incidents of corruption starting with antisemitism, and others ranging from research study manipulation and NIH funding fraud to Medicare/Medicaid billing fraud some of which included double-dipping; billing Medicare and Medicaid for services which had already been paid for with research funding.

In each of these cases the entity sought to discredit the whistleblower who had exposed the particular malfeasance by exploiting whatever vulnerability in that individual they could, be it their work reputation, going after their medical license with lies about them, assassinating the person’s character, and/or painting them as mentally ill.

Dr.Charles Nemeroff, a psychopharmacologist and former head of Emory’s Dept. of Psychiatry who is mentioned in numerous reliable media source’s articles and investigative reports as having committed research and medical journal publishing fraud and that he was in bed with major pharmaceutical companies and getting promotional funding from them while employed by (and with the blessing of) Emory. He also falsified safety claims on Abilify stating it was safe when in fact it was causing Tardive Dyskinesia.

Nemeroff himself conducted some of those psychiatric evaluations on whistleblowers, (proving my point that Emory does have unofficial hatchet-men to do their dirty work for them in order to cover up their corrupt practices).

After leaving Emory and Georgia in disgrace, Dr. Nemeroff went on to become employed at University of Miami and officials there seemed strangely unconcerned about hiring somebody who had committed illegal and unethical acts in the process of his career activities.

Apparently the reason for this nonchalance according to the Chronical for Higher Learning was that NIMH Director Thomas Insel owed Nemeroff for a favor he’d done for him when he’d lost his position and put in a word for him with Pascal Goldschmidt, MD, UM’s Medical School Dean, convincing him that the benefits in the man’s skill at fundraising outweighed the risk he carried. Meanwhile Insel quietly revised the NIMH conflict-of-interest regulations, and Nemeroff sits on two advisory boards that decide or influence which scientists get research funding.

Nemeroff’s current department is back in the Medicaid business overseeing a multi-million dollar contract which oversees 900 providers 30 hospitals, and 100 CMHCs (Community Mental Health Centers) trusting him with state funding again even after his HHS/CMS violations here in Georgia. While Nemeroff sits on easy street the whistleblower has spent years of his life fending off numerous frivolous legal challenges thrown at him by a judge who was in Emory’s pocket, unfairly placing a gag order on him while not evenly applying the same constraints on Emory whose various officials have given a number of media interviews about theirs and Nemeroff’s side of the story.

Emory holds a tremendous amount of power in Atlanta and throughout the state of Georgia so it’s no wonder that its top-level executives feel they’re above the law. It’s bad enough that they feel free to tamper with research and NIH/NIMH funding and go after people to cover up the skeletons in their closet, but the epitome of low-down and dirty that they’d resort to such tactics against patients! To attack a patient may prove to be their undoing. That is a bridge too far. Here’s one porcupine they’d best leave alone. I’m sure this is just the tip of the iceberg.

 

Emory Patient Banned for Giving Negative Feedback

“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.”

Emory Chief Medical Officer - Letter Banning Me Dated April 19th 2016

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.

 

 

Medicare Home Infusion Site of Care Act of 2015; S275 HR 605 – Your Support is Crucial

As we speak new legislation is being proposed which would help many people obtain IV Saline infusions at home; the Medicare Home Infusion Site Care Act of 2015 .

Bettemarie Bond, a patient with Dysautonomia including a malfunctioning GI tract, and Mitochondrial Disease, once able to obtain these helpful infusions, suddenly found herself unemployed and on Disability and at the mercy of the Medicare system for all her medical needs. No longer covered by her previous employer’s private insurance, the stark reality hit her full in the face as she realized that she was unable to obtain them.  

Her self-advocacy led to the launching of a grass roots effort in her hometown in Philadelphia to get Medicare to cover home infusions. Little did anybody know that her online petition would gain such traction on a Federal level and interest some key legislators!

Kendall Van Pool, Vice President of Legislative Affairs for the National Home Infusion Association,  wrote an article here which goes into more detail about this ground-breaking piece of legislation and a few other related bills.

The original bill, HR 2581 contained verbiage which would not have allowed infusion at home, as it would contain a change in method of reimbursement referred to as Average Sales Pricing (otherwise known as ASP). This is a reimbursement method that applies to physician reimbursement (and in particular applies to delivery in an “outpatient hospital” department). Falling short of true access by patients who are often homebound, several legislators were concerned that such legislation as the first version was too restrictive in not allowing patients the choice to be treated at home with this modality.

Next came HR 6, the 21st Century Cures Act. Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) of the House Energy and Commerce Committee is hopeful that this version passes in the Senate.

To contact Kendall Van Poole you can call;

(703) 838-2664 or e-mail him at Kendall.VanPool@NHIA.org  

An election year; 2016 could be just the right time for Congress, and thus Medicare, to fully embrace this option if enough patients, families, and healthcare professionals come out in strong support of this exciting new legislation to give patients more choice and flexibility in their treatment and in what setting it’s delivered.

Those of you who follow this blog regularly know that this is something that has helped me when I was hospitalized in November and that my struggle continues to obtain regular IV Saline infusions at home for my Dysautonomia. As my gastrointestinal difficulties continue to increase I am finding it difficult to add any more pills to the growing number I must take by mouth. My GI tract really can’t tolerate anymore by mouth, so for people like myself and Bettemarie Bond, going the IV route makes better sense than to try to force more pills down one’s throat into a stomach which is already compromised and most likely not absorbing what it takes in.

For those who can get it IV Saline can make a notable difference and allow one to enjoy life despite one’s chronic illness, while those who cannot get it often suffer a long and agonizing medical decline and de-morale as they continue to find these infusions always just out of reach and at best short-lived while only receiving them in an infusion center or within an inpatient setting (insurance or money permitting).

Notice in her video clip above that Bettemarie says she had her heart rate drop during a procedure. This just happened to me today as I was having a Colonoscopy. I had a really rough time even before going under mild anesthesia; suffering chills, dehydration, and changes in heart rate, as well as Myoclonus triggered by the body’s inability to keep me warm enough.

Ironically the nurse who had hooked up my IV saline before I was taken to the room where I had my procedure had in her haste not secured the tubing to the IV and another nurse found me bleeding all over the bed and the Saline half empty leaking on the sheets. Having gone through drinking the prep (which invariably strips one of electrolytes) and then not drinking my usual 24/7 ice water in the few hours prior to the Colonoscopy left me all the more in need of all the Saline I could get. I had to fight to get the nurse to wait in recovery for the last bag to finish because she was in such a rush to hurry me out the door and to fill the bed with another patient. It was as though I were a car at the local Jiffy Lube rather than a human being in need of care after coming out of the Propofol.

It didn’t seem to matter how many times I reminded them of the fact that I am Dysautonomic. It was as though their biggest concern was for their employer and the dictates of the facility, not so much for my best interest. I found it crass that they were more invested in meeting a quota of patients served per day than in serving the individual patient with the dignity and care that all human beings deserve. (I will say that the one man in anesthesiology who mentioned my heart rate dropping was an exception to the otherwise high-volume/low quality workplace. He did go out of his way to make me as comfortable as possible given my complex medical fragility, and for that I am thankful).

Let’s all work together to make this legislation the law of the land. Leave a comment, share, write your representatives in Congress, and/or CMS and HHS, and sign the petition so that the Medicare Home Infusion Site Care Act can improve the lives of Medicare patients who need/benefit from home infusion. Although not a cure, these infusions can make life more meaningful and reduce suffering until cures can be found.