Emergency, Urgency and Currency
My 90-year-old mother was recently taken via ambulance to Bayfront Health St. Petersburg, (the former Bayfront Medical Center) due to a fall she had when she was out walking. Fortunately, in spite of a black and blue face and a couple stitches on her forehead, my mom had no serious damage.
She is blessed, lucky and charmed, and for all that, I’m grateful.
You see, I’m her 58-year-old son and I’m her only local caretaker. She now lives in an ALF and no longer drives; therefore, she is very dependent on me for a number of things, especially her health, wellbeing and medical care.
When I received the phone message from the staff at her ALF that she had fallen, I was shaken up, to say the least. I called them immediately upon getting the message and they told me about the fall and that the paramedics took her to Bayfront, due to her age and the fact that she hit her head (apparently they have a head-trauma unit there).
I then began my “not-so-wonderful” experience with Bayfront Health.
I first called (727) 823-1234, since that was the first number listed on Google, and on their website.
Ring, ring, ring…more rings…no answer, so I hung up, and needless to say, I felt very perplexed.
I looked around on the website more and found this:
“Information about patients is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week by calling the patient information desk at (727) 893-6101.”
Feeling relieved, I called this number.
Ring, ring, ring…more rings…no answer, so I hung up and, needless to say, I felt very perplexed…again…and now also frustrated.
How could a hospital NOT answer their phones??
I called these two numbers, one and then the other, repeatedly for about 15 minutes.
In the midst of all this, while the phone was ringing, I probed around on the site and somehow stumbled upon their public relations number, (727) 893-6110, and called them, hoping to at least speak to a live person.
Oh, by the way, there was no voicemail or automated answering during any of these calls, and even though I find those to be extremely annoying, something would have been better than nothing.
I actually got the voicemail at the PR number, and I left a “somewhat emotionally charged” message (and I’m not proud of that, at all). I said something to the effect that I knew that PR was not responsible for me not being able to find out about my mom’s condition, but I thought that this was definitely a VERY negative case of PR.
Finally, again after calling the first two numbers back and forth, someone (an operator I would guess) answered the phone and put me through to the ER (where my mom still was).
I explained who I was to the ER person who answered the phone and asked about my mother’s condition.
And at that point, I ran into the HIPAA wall. I’ve worked in healthcare for 30 years so I’m quite aware of patient confidentiality and everything that goes with that.
So I was already admittedly feeling very frustrated with a big twist of uncertainty and fear.
I explained to the ER person on the phone that I understood HIPAA but I’d really like to know my mom’s condition.
“I’ll let the nurse know and she’ll call you back. And we’ll have to get permission from her before we can release any information to you.”
It wasn’t just WHAT was said, but it was also HOW it was said.
Definite edge, terseness and “attitude.”
Now I’m not naïve; I know how stressful hospital settings can be (I’ve worked in two in my lifetime) and how there always seems to be an “understaffed” issue (why is that?).
But I’m calling about my 90-year-old mother who’s in the emergency room!
At that point, I immediately called and cancelled all my appointments for the rest of the day, got in my car, drove to Bayfront, parked my car and went into the emergency room.
I was greeted by (another) “not-so-friendly” person at the check-in desk. I explained to him who I was, who my mom was, and why I was here. He looked at his computer, undoubtedly looking up my mother’s name, and then made a name tag for me and led me back to my mom.
I don’t think he smiled or offered, from what I picked-up on, any empathy, appreciation or care about my situation.
Oh…that’s not his job. I see…what!!?
Anyway, he led me back in the ER area and pointed into a room where my mom was and said (I think), “She’s in bed number three.”
As I walked in, there was an employee dressed in scrubs standing at one of the roll-around computer stands and I said hello to her. She was staring straight onto what looked to be a magazine that was on top of the computer stand.
No eye contact, no response, no nothing…”not-so-friendly” person number 3.
(Are you picking up on a trend here?)
I went back to my mom, who (of course) was happy to see me, and I her, and assessed the situation and figured that she was okay in spite of a lot of bruises and the cut on her forehead. (The first thing she said was, “I’m not going to church looking like this.” Yes, that’d be my mom, and that confirmed that she was going to be okay).
I went back to the person standing at the computer stand and asked if I could talk to someone about what was going on with my mom. I got the sense that I was bothering her, like interrupting her reading or something.
What the heck is going on here?!!
This is neither health NOR care!!
She said she’d get a nurse for me (still no eye contact, and certainly no empathy and care in her body language or voice tone).
The nurse (who came across as very friendly, understanding, caring and empathetic) told me what they had done (CT scan, x-ray and stitches) and that she was ready to be released. She went back to get the paperwork to be signed at that point.
Then something really cool happened: As I was standing next to mom’s bed, one of the maintenance people came in with a chair and said, “Here’s a chair for you so you can sit down.”
Wow. The maintenance person had a clue. She knew. She understood. She cared. And she took action. And she did this all with a big smile and an almost glowing countenance.
We went through the discharge process relatively easily and then we were ready to leave.
My girlfriend, who had also come down in the interim, stayed there with my mom as I went to get my car.
I noticed, as a complete aside, that the car in front of me had what looked like a parking ticket stuffed under the windshield wiper. “What a bummer,” I thought, “you go to the emergency room probably scared out of your mind, not thinking about the parking meter, and when you come back out, there’s a ticket waiting there for you.”
Severe bummer! It seems like (or maybe I am being naive here) Bayfront and the City of St. Petersburg could team up to allow for some complimentary parking around a hospital. You know, like for emergencies.
Oh, but I digress!
That all being said, here’s my bottom-line: Just because someone like me gets semi-freaked out due to a medical emergency, it clearly does NOT imply ANY urgency on the behalf of Bayfront’s staff. And furthermore, and hence, the title of this piece, it’s got to be all about the currency, or lack thereof.
I am not Pollyannaish about healthcare and I get that it’s a tough system with multiple levels of stressors all the time. But a little emotional intelligence training would go a LONG way!
There is absolutely NO reason for the malaise, poor attitude and lack of responsiveness. Period. No reason AND no valid excuses.
I’m not happy nor have much, if any, confidence about how Bayfront runs its operations. I don’t really care what they might be recognized for, or any new fancy technology they might have (we got to be the first time user of their new-fangled wheelchairs, and aren’t they just the bomb![Yes, sarcasm]).
It’s the people, the personal touch, the interpersonal awareness, the empathy, support and care that truly make “healthcare” both healthy and caring.
Oh, by the way, I did get a call back from a very friendly sounding person from PR. She sounded surprised and perplexed as to how something like this could happen (primarily all the unanswered phone calls) and she said she was going to look into it.
Wake up, Bayfront, my emergency is urgency and I don’t give a damn about new-fangled wheelchairs, so how about investing your currency to upgrade the emotional intelligence of your staff?
I am NOT impressed!