Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Breaking news
That's a pun.
Lily and I fortified ourselves with a good brekkie (cooked by Nick) yesterday morning then set off to experience the utter ridiculousness of the American health care system.

We'd called the Canadian doctor, who told her the X-ray showed a small fracture and that Lily needed a cast as soon as possible. Despite our having been told at the hospital in Canada that there was no visible break.
So Lily tried to get an appointment with a GP in Olympia (from the list of our health insurance company's 'approved' GPs, but no-one was taking any new patients. If she wanted to be considered as a new patient, she had to go to the office, fill out all the paperwork (doubtless for a fee) which would then be reviewed by the GP to see if he or she fancied taking Lily on as a patient (another fee).
We went, therefore, to a walk-in 'urgent care clinic', where we were told that Lily needed to see an orthopaedic specialist to get treatment. So we sat in the waiting room and rang all the ortho clinics in Olympia: no appointments possible until next Monday, and even then she'd have to go through the same process as to see a GP. So there was no guarantee an ortho doc would even feel like considering taking on Lily's case.
Lily, by now, was in tears. She knew she had a fractured bone in her foot, and all she wanted was someone to look at it and help her get it into a cast.
Finally we went to the ER of a local hospital. They are all private, remember. We watched a woman with a bandaged foot get turned away at reception (where the first question is 'What health insurance do you have?') because she had no insurance and was unable to pay up front. She couldn't even get a voucher for a taxi home.
We waited in the entry waiting room to get into the ER's waiting room, where a nurse gave us the fifth degree about (health insurance and) what had happened to Lily, and then told us that she'd be reviewed by the ER doctor here (for a fee, separate from the hospital's own fee)), possibly X-rayed again (for a fee), made comfortable with a splint (for a fee), or rather, was allowed to, and then sent to an ortho doctor for a cast (yet another fee).
None of the doctors at the ER of this hospital could put on a cast. We were astounded, at this point, and then more so when the nurse told us that this was for reasons of legal liability.
Eventually we saw a wonderfuly sympathetic doctor, who X-rayed Lil's foot and told her in no uncertain terms that the break was in fact quite bad, and that the ortho doc may need to do an MRI to ensure the joint was okay. They splinted and bandaged her entire lower leg, prescribed some non-codeine ainkillers and then sent us home. We had to make our own ortho doctor's appointment, but managed to get an appointment for today with a friend of the ER doctor (they had a deal: the ER doctor wouldn't ever page her ortho friend, and in return the ortho agreed to see the ER doc's patients as early as possible.
So we're off to the ortho clinic this morning. Wish us luck!


Anonymous said...

Best change your name to chapter 33 for a fee as I can see this is going to take a while.

Fairlie said...

Oh, my. It's stories like this that make me very appreciative of the Australian health system, flawed as it is.

Natalie said...

Ugh. Medical hoops and other nonsense. In the meantime poor Lily just needs real medical attention. Isn't it fortunate you were there to help sort this out and do battle? When we are least able, we have to face this bureaucratic b.s.
I'm sorry your lovely trip is finishing like this.
Healing thoughts for Lily, and best wishes for a safe return.

M said...

The US health system does my head in. Mind you, as a tourist with plenty of insurance we were treated like royalty when I turned up to a hospital in Anaheim with a very sick little boy. I hate to add that we were treated faster and with so much more respect than the other US citizens in the waiting room