June 26th, 2019

More Medical Mayhem

There was one... uh... interesting part of my last hospital visit that I didn't talk about in my previous diatribe: the dialysis fiasco. See, I was supposed to be what they refer to as an "urgent start", so while I was in the hospital, my kidney doc arranged to have my PD done in my room. Some guy who we had never seen before came in with all the equipment and supplies, introduced himself and asked if we minded if he used me to train the new guy. We told him that was fine as long as we could listen in because we needed to know about this thing as well. He explained that the equipment we would have at home would be different, but they all work more-or-less the same way and any differences would be mostly cosmetic.

So we got a quick rundown of terminology, how the system worked, what problems can come up, how to fix some of the more common alarms, etc. Then they left. Things went OK that first night; we had a couple alarms, but we knew what to do. Which turned out to be most fortunate, because as we learned from our night nurse, once the two gentlemen left, there was no one in the entire hospital who had any knowledge of PD, and it wouldn't have mattered even if they did: the equipment belonged to an outside company and hospital personnel were strictly forbidden to even touch it.

I thought that was an odd way for a major hospital to do things, but what do I know? We muddled through the next few nights without major incident. The occasional alarms were annoying, but we were able to deal with them. And then my last night in the hospital everything went all to hell.

First, the guy who came in was not any of the ones who had come in before. He was obviously in a big hurry, which means he had problems getting the machine set up. No surprise there; all equipment has a built-in detector that increases the likelihood of a malfunction in direct proportion to how much of a hurry you are in. He finally gets the thing working, then goes running out the door before the first step had completed. The other guys always hung around for most of the first full cycle just to make sure everything was good. I thought maybe he had someone in another room to get hooked up or something.

Anyway, we started getting alarms almost immediately, and not the ones that we knew what to do anything about. We double-checked everything we could think of to check, but no joy. Alarm after alarm after alarm after alarm. The nurse called the guy to have him come check it out.

The son-of-a-bitch had left the building! By the time our nurse made contact with him, he was already an hour from the hospital on his way home and refused to come back. He said the only thing he could suggest was to mute the alarm and wait until someone came in the morning to unhook everything and see if they could get things working.

No. Fucking. Way!!!

I was supposed to be discharged the next morning. The total time on the machine was close to eight hours, which would have meant another day and night in the hospital. I was done! I wanted to get home!

We kept poking at the thing and nearly 10 hours and 30+ alarms later, we finally got through the entire process. I felt bad for anyone in the rooms near mine. The damn alarms were loud as hell and they were going off every couple minutes at one point. I was so pissed I had decided that if I ever saw that ass-clown again, I would tear his head off and shit down his throat. Fortunately, someone else showed up the next morning to unhook me.

Now that I've had some sleep and knowing what I know about the medical-industrial complex, I'm willing to give the SoB a bit of a break. I still don't appreciate the whole attitude that my health and well-being are unimportant, that I'm just a "consumer" of healthcare "services" and deserve no more consideration or respect that someone "consuming" a box of Goobers.

However, if SoB's company operates the way most others around here do, he isn't considered an employee, but an independent contractor. Which means that he is probably paid some flat amount for each dialysis patient he hooks up while having to use his own vehicle and gas to drive all over Pasco County. The flat amount probably sounds like a lot of money until he subtracts out vehicle depreciation, maintenance, gas, paying the full amount of his Social Security (double what is withheld from your paycheck), health insurance, additional car insurance (it's now considered a vehicle for hire), and a long list of incidentals. All of which means he's likely making less that he would flipping burgers for minimum wage, and explains to some extent the bitchy attitude.

But what I'm most interested in is how all this works from the hospital side of things. Here I am, an inpatient of Advent Healthcare of Zephyrhills, squirming around on my plastic bed because of the giant sore on my ass (which two months later still has not healed...) hooked up to a machine that no one in the building has any knowledge of, and will be fired on the spot if they so much as touch any part of it. Now what happens if I code? Not impossible. After all, the primary reason I was in the hospital was sharp stabbing chest pains. Would everyone just stand around the bed and watch me die while the night nurse argues with SoB about getting his ass back to the hospital? Would they try to revive me while working around the machine and the hundreds of feet of plastic tubing sprouting from it and connected to me like some giant plastic squid, knowing that touching any of it meant instant job loss? What if the machine were to malfunction and catch fire? Just let it burn? Or would the night nurse risk her career to unplug it and hose it down with a fire extinguisher?

(Yes, I'm being sarcastic, but only sort of. I'd really like to see whatever written agreement that exists between the hospital and the dialysis company. I can tell you that every hospital employee that came into my room while I was on dialysis treated the equipment like it was infected with ebola. I'll bet there are stories....)

Is there anyone reading this that doesn't think this is a stupid way to run a hospital? It's so stupid, in fact, that it has to be deliberate. The only reason this could exist in a rational universe is that someone, somewhere is fattening up their off-shore bank account. Maybe News Channel 8's crack investigative team can take a break from chasing cockroaches around mom&pop restaurants and go hunting the giant cockroaches infesting our health care system.

And I'm sure all those paid advertisements from the major hospitals that run every 5 minutes day and night on their network will not have any influence on future news stories, cuz you are all so full of integrity and stuff. Full of something anyway....

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