Fun times in the ER (and other ways to waste your entire day)

At some time after 3:00 AM this morning Wendy woke up having a lot of trouble breathing. She tried to go on about her normal morning routine to relax and have a cup of coffee. Usually this results in the extreme coughing fits she usually has in the morning to subside some. Not this morning. After not being able to finish her coffee and catch her breath she woke me up saying she needed to go to the hospital.

I immediately got myself out of bed and got ready to take her while she continued to cough nearly losing her breath. It was very scary and the trip getting there wasn’t very much fun for her either since I was in a hurry as we live quite a distance from the hospital. On the way there we were trying to decide if we should go to the Urgent Care Center or the Emergency Room at Sutter Roseville Medical Center.

Now before I go any further it’s important to understand why we mulled over which building to go to. The Urgent Care Center is in the same building as Wendy’s oncologist and we thought maybe they’ll notify her and she’ll be aware of what’s going on. The oncologist had hoped that once Wendy started her chemo treatments again some of this coughing and shortness of breath would subside. But we didn’t quite make it that far. Wendy knew if we went to the ER it would be expensive, but that the Urgent Care center would probably be busy. And of course, in the time it took us to get there her symptoms had subsided some.

We arrived at the Urgent Care Center at 9:00 AM to find it packed! When I asked how long it would take the receptionist said the admissions were based on severity. So I explained that my wife was sitting in the wheelchair behind me barely able to breathe. We were able to get in to see the nurse for initial consultation within about 10 minutes. But once he was finished asking questions and getting her basic medical readings (heart rate, BP, etc.) and consulted with the doctor they decided we needed to go to the ER instead. This meant a trip through the rain and wind to another building. I was soaked to the bone when we got there. Wendy had an umbrella so wasn’t too bad except her legs.

At the ER it took longer to go through the initial process and get into an exam area (not really a room). The nurse at admissions who took all her vitals again said that once we got back to see a doctor they would give her something to open her airways up so she could breathe. But when we got back there and they put her in a bed they once again got her vitals (this had been done three times now) and she sat there. After quite some time a woman with a mobile computer station showed up to get/verify personal information and get our $200.00 co-pay from us. Wendy still had not been given any kind of medication and we’d been there for an hour and a half!

After two hours a woman with a portable X-Ray machine came and took a single image. About a half hour later another woman with a portable EKG came and hooked Wendy up and after ten minutes of connecting wires was done in less than a minute with the scan. We’d now been there for over two hours, paid for our visit and Wendy still hadn’t been given anything for her symptoms! Finally a nurse gave her some oxygen, even though the pulse-oximeter said her oxygen levels were at 98%. Wendy said it didn’t really seem to make any difference in her breathing.

At some point someone came out and said they needed to do a CT Scan. We waited what seemed like forever for that and when they finally did it we waited again for an answer. We didn’t get an answer until 2:00 PM and by this time both Wendy and I had been there for five hours with only a cup of water. We hadn’t had anything to eat and we were pretty hungry. I won’t go into the results. Wendy will post about that tomorrow. But the doctor didn’t really offer her any solutions for what happened. Wendy said this could happen tomorrow again and then what? She had to ask for something to finally get a prescription for Albuterol inhaler to help her breathe. Five hours and she still hadn’t been given any treatment for extreme difficulty breathing. But they very quickly processed the billing and got their $200.00 co-pay. She was finally released at 2:30 PM (5-1/2 hours) not having received any medical treatment, only tests.

Now it’s bad enough that you go to the ER and don’t get anything for your emergency even after five hours, but then to have to ask for something. I personally was very disappointed at the entire experience. There was a Meth addict there who was apparently in withdrawal, randomly screaming out and moaning constantly. He was two beds over and the patient and family in between were having discussions about this person at a volume level where everyone around could clearly hear what they were saying as they complained and proceeded to give details about someone they really didn’t know anything about. And then the patient herself asked a nurse why they couldn’t do something about him and keep him quiet. I myself was wondering why they couldn’t keep her and her family quiet! There was a lot of very strange things going on there including many references by staff to corn dogs.

Anyway, my issue with Sutter is that as a care provider their customer service is terrible and their rates are always going up. The rates they charge for many things are completely ridiculous! If you want an example check out my entry from August 21, 2013. options are very limited for other providers partially due to the fact that over the 10 years we’ve lived out here in CA Sutter has absorbed many of the smaller providers severely limiting our choices. The constant rate increase finally caused an issue that almost caused us to lose all of Wendy’s doctors as they’re all part of Sutter and then this happened:

Blue Shield in dispute with Sutter Health over costs
Dispute between Blue Shield, Sutter Health could impact insurance for thousands
Sutter Health-Blue Shield dispute leaves at least 280,000 patients in limbo
Battle between Blue Shield, Sutter Health turns patients into ‘pawns’

So yeah, it wasn’t a waste running my wife to the hospital to get her some care because she was having difficulty breathing. But considering that as of when we left there they hadn’t done a single thing to correct that, they wasted our time and money. So it’s bad enough to monopolize the health care options but worse when you use that to justify constant rate hikes. As I understand it, Sutter costs are higher than anyone else and this is what the service is like. Something to think about.

About Chris Savage

Devoted Husband of Wendy Jo Savage. I am her rock, her friend and her soulmate. Rest in peace, my wife. You will be missed.
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