Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Medical Attention in Florida

Here is Dick's report on our problems with the medical establishment in Florida.  Spoiler alert - it does have a happy ending!                                                                                                                              *****

Getting medical attention in South Florida is an adventure.  I don't know if you remember our panic last year which caused us an early departure.  Nancy was getting blood work done on a weekly basis with the results to be sent to her primary up in TC. It turns out that instead of sending them to her Dr.'s office, they were calling and leaving a message on our home phone,which we learned when we checked the messages when we got back. We learned that her Dr. didn't receive them so we decided to pick them up on paper and take them ourselves when we left.  She called the lab here each week to get the results herself.  On the last call she made to them, the woman on the other end of the line reported that her platelet count was 17!  That means no clotting!  A small cut or bad bruise could kill you!

I quickly packed the car, we drove over to get the results, and planned to make a short stop at Laurie's for farewell hugs and kisses.  On the way to say our goodbyes, Nan read the paperwork and discovered that the woman had read the wrong column. The count was low but not life threatening. Since we were all packed we just took those guys out to lunch and then took a leisurely trip home.

That brings us to this year. On 12/12 she had a TACE procedure  in Traverse City for her liver cancer.  We decided that she should have an Oncologist down here in case of an emergency.  She did extensive research looking for someone who had graduated from an American med school rather than some Caribbean outfit etc.  There is nothing serious, just some minor after effects from the procedure that are uncomfortable.  After Christmas she called the Dr.'s office and got an appointment.   The earliest they could take her was Jan. 22 at 8:30 a.m.  T hey asked for her records, she contacted TC and asked that they fax them to the Oncologist office in Stuart.

Now the fun begins, on the 21st, late in the afternoon, a phone call from the office reminding her of the appointment.  She was told to arrive at 8:15 to fill out some forms.  After another half hour or so, another call asking her if she had her records. She explained that they had been faxed - "Well we didn't get them". A discussion followed with Nancy asking a number of questions. Then the phone went silent on there end. "Hello? Hello? Is anyone there?" She was about to hang up when a different voice came on the line and asked "How can I help you" like Nancy had called them. A long discussion followed with the conclusion that "Since we did not have the necessary records", the 8:30 appointment was canceled and Nan should call at 9:00 to determine if the necessary records had arrived.  Just when the appointment to see the Dr. was going to be was unclear.

So now, instead of leaving the house at 7:45, we now had no idea of when we might be going into Stuart to see an Oncologist. As is normal for a grumpy old man, I mumbled and grumbled about why they had waited until her TC Dr.'s office was closed before telling us about this problem and wondering what had happened to the first caller. We went back to our computers and a short time later, the phone rings again. This time it's the PA who tells Nancy to bring any paper work she might have when she comes to her morning appointment and they will work it out from there.  Nan asks "In other words, I should disregard everything in my previous conversation with your office."  "That is correct, see you in the morning".

We got there a little early but the place was open. Nancy checked at the desk and was given some forms to fill out. As she went into the waiting area, I overheard one of the desk people tell the other, "We don't have her records, She's from up north. We tried to call them but because of the blizzard, the phones are out".  What nonsense!  In the first place, the blizzard is in Massachusetts not Michigan and second, the T.C. Dr.'s office isn't open yet. I stepped out into the hall and called their number. The machine picked up and gave me the time they would open as 8:45, it was then 8:10. When Nancy was called at 8:30,  I went to the desk, asked for and received their fax number.  I went back into the hall and at 8:45 called TC.  I explained the problem and the gal told me they had sent the file, 36 pages, to that number on December 31st.  I asked her if they would send them again and she agreed to do it immediately. I went back inside and sat where I could see the gals at the desk. They sat there talking on the phone, to arriving patients and to each other. After about 20 minutes or so, I went to the desk and asked if Nancy's records had arrived on the fax machine. She responded, "I don't know, I haven't looked". The machine was about 10 feet behind her. A passing tech stopped at the machine reached down and held up a stack of papers and said "Here's something that says Steiger".

Mission accomplished! What happened to the first set we'll never know. They were probably recycled because the secretary who pulled them didn't recognize the name back at the end of the year. The upside is that the Dr. and the PA are dealing with Nancy and her situation well and not just blowing her off.  I know that we are both glad that the next TACE will be in Traverse next month but we are also relieved that if a problem develops after we get back down here, it should be handled promptly.