Friday, February 3, 2023

The Very Model of Efficiency

 When Tim was discharged from the hospital, he was given a fat packet of instructions. In these instructions was the directives to make a followup appointment within one week. The address and the phone number to the Neurology Clinic was given. 

I have spent a lot of time calling that number. A LOOOOOTTTTTT of time. Today, I called UPMC and wound up talking to a customer service person in Pittsburgh, who helpfully looked up the information of the clinic in Erie. 

I was gobsmacked to find out that the discharge paperwork provided the wrong phone number. 

Understand that this wasn't a simple matter of someone writing down the number wrong. This was a print out. The clinic, the address and the phone number were the letter head. I couldn't believe this. 

When I got hold of the clinic, the receptionist curtly told me that the error was beyond her control, that there was nothing she could do about an incorrect number on hospital paperwork. She also said that it is not the first time that she heard the complaint. 


I said, "Listen. This is a scary time for people. I'm trying to be proactive here and to make sure that we are dotting all the i's and crossing all the t's. Being provided the wrong contact information is kind of horrifying. That needs to be corrected, and I don't feel that is an unreasonable patient request."

She briskly went about making the appointment. 

I knew she wasn't going to do jack about the wrong number being provided to patients.

So, I called up on the ward and spoke with the nursing station. I told her that we had been provided with discharge paperwork that gave us the wrong number to the neurology practice. She efficiently interrupted me to give me the correct number. 

I said, "Yes. I've got the correct information now, but I spent a week calling the wrong number over and over again. The phone just rang a couple dozen times, and then disconnected. Nothing to indicate it was a wrong number at all. Don't you think that needs to be corrected on the discharge paperwork?"

Long pause. Efficient voice resumes. "That might be an old number.." 

This time I heard another voice in my head. Lt. Gunderson. Brisk no nonsense guy standing in front of a formation bellowing "RESULTS NOT REASONS!"

I said, "It doesn't even matter why. It needs to be fixed." 

The reply came back. "I'll pass it along."

I disconnected the phone. 

She's not going to do jack about the wrong number being given to patients. 

I looked on line and found an e-mail address that promised that UPMC wanted to hear our feedback to improve their services. I sent off a sharply worded e-mail about not only the wrong phone number but also the fact that we were discharged with a prescription that needed to be filled and given before we even got home. Surely enough medication could have been provided to get us home, or better yet, through a Sunday evening. 

I resumed looking for a primary care doctor to get that cough taken care of. 

The phone rang. The caller ID said it was Hamot. I was a bit shocked. That was a pretty quick response to my complaints. Except when I picked it up, there was a woman telling me she had a prescription for a Holter monitor for my husband. Color me gobsmacked once again. 

"I spoke with a young lady Tuesday. I was given the choice between taking Tim to Erie to be outfitted for it or having it mailed. I chose mail because he has c-diff and a 1 1/2 hour car ride is difficult right now. This is supposed to be on its way."

"Great!" she said. 

"No," I said. "I need you to follow up on this right now, and make sure that it IS on its way here. I'd have figured that it would be here already."

Efficiently, she put me on hold. 

She came back and said that it was all taken care of and that I'd be getting it sometime next week. 

Yeah. Bet me. She placed the order for it while I was on hold. Nothing had been done last Tuesday. 

This is crazy. All of it. 


  1. Very, very stressful. It's hard to be sick and then have problems like that on top of things.

  2. Having to fight battles at this time is terrible Debby. Hopefully everything will be better in the future. X

  3. It is crazy. I am so sorry. I want you on my side, if I have issues!

  4. Oh for heaven's sake, what is the point of any treatment set up if they haven't even got addresses and phone numbers up to date, nor are they likely to sort the problem any time soon. In this country we would be inclined to write to our MP or the local newspaper - to spread this around. As for the Holter monitor not being despatched? Just which elements of this "treatment" are you paying for? My goodness, I can quite understand you jumping up and down and wanting to go for the jugular. I'd do the same. Good luck in getting things sorted.

  5. Good grief. As if you haven't got enough to worry about! After spending a couple of years coping with this sort of scenario myself, both with health care providers and financial institutions, I believe that the world is currently experiencing two pandemics - one of Covid and one of 'professional' incompetence!

  6. Can only imagine that your BP has to be reading off the charts with these conversations with IDIOTS! Have been through this kind of scenario with some 'health care' (oxymoron) providers. More like health careless providers. Wishing you better luck getting answers and appointments. Difficult finding docs around here who will accept new patients once they hit 65.
    Once you aren't quite so stressed, perhaps you might send a sharply worded letter to CEO of the hospital with a cc: highlighted at the bottom of it showing a copy went to the Pennsylvania Health Department that oversees licensing of hospitals. Not to mention also cc'ing your attorney (whether you did or not :). Funny, how that sometimes gets their attention.
    Hoping for better days. Mary

  7. Health care-less at its most frustrating. You wonder what happens to people suffering like Tim but have no Debby to look out for them.

  8. All these complications just had to your stress and I am so sorry you have to go through this. Thank goodness, Tim has you to fight for his rights as a patient to get good care. I shudder to imagine the poor people that have no family to work these problems out for them.
    Hang in there and keep fighting for better service!

  9. The Society of Incompetent Healthcare Un-professionals have members all over the world. I was twice given an incorrect prescription at the hospital yesterday. You have my sympathy.

  10. You should be running that hospitals administration department Debby.

  11. Debby, mine doesn't compare to poor Tim's condition but I have UPMC insurance too, and the same thing happened to me in January when my PCP ordered a colonoscopy to investigate a hard mass in my abdomen--I was given a number to call, and a packet of instructions came in the mail. I soon learned the number was for the WRONG office, and the prep stuff I was instructed to buy on the directions packet was NOT what the gastro doc wanted me to take. When I asked what I was supposed to do, I got a curt "Just throw it away, that's for routine colonoscopies and your prep is at your pharmacy!" like I was supposed to know this stuff??

  12. I sometimes hear people talking about how difficult it is to navigate the systems in countries with universal healthcare as a reason we do not want that here. And I just wonder how in hell they think our insurance/private pay system is any different. Our healthcare system is totally effed up on so many levels. It is a nightmare.

  13. Do you think that there is an annual international competition as to how they can stuff patients lives around? I have been frontline to some entries, and these are up there as contenders too. I really feel for those who DON'T have a healthy person in their vicinity who can help navigate some of the stupidity. Jeanie

  14. This is atrocious patient care and inefficiency and poor service at its worst. I'm thankful that you are Tim's advocate as I was for my husband. He was too sick to deal with all of the *stuff* and it sounds like it's MUCH worse now than 12 years ago.

  15. I can hardly believe that we are going through very similar frustrations, today, just across the border from you. I will have another post coming. It is absolutely ridiculous.

  16. Jeez. We used to get a lot of people calling us cos their power had gone off - because they grabbed the helpline number from an old electricity bill and it had changed since - most of the time we would pick up and tell them the new number... but sometimes.. we just turned the ringer off... I did think of making an answerphone message to tell people the right number, but.. didn't. But a medical care provider not updating their letter-head? ridiculous. I am impressed you tried to push the problem up the line.... even if the whole experience sounds a bit like that guy sysiphus. Someone with a set of stickers and a printer could just fix the problem pretty easily even if they can't fix the actual letter-head. Though I bet their billing letter-head is up to date. Hope the Holter monitor comes soon - but at least Tim seems to be doing well...Cat.

  17. Perhaps a world problem. I went to hospital a couple of years ago to collect a Holter monitor to use for 24 hours. Sorry, they are all in use. We'll definitely have one available tomorrow. That was about two hours of wasted time. Fortunately I had retired by then and did not have to take time off work. I came home, emailed in a complaint and within 15 minutes I received a very apologetic call from someone in charge of something. As I said, there will be a list of who is collecting a monitor and it needs to be compared to how many monitors there are available and if not enough, make phone calls to patients.

  18. Who will put the Holter monitor on Tim when it has arrived? Just curious.

    I would be livid to find out that the wrong phone number was given to me. Does the hospital have a patient complaint or patient relations department?

    Sadly, we have a patient pamplet that has old information in it as well, no phone numbers though, just info about flushing the CVC by the patient, which we don't do anymore. Now the nurses just cross out the useless stuff and give the pamphlet to the patient. It looks unprofessional and misleading and I find it embarrassing.

    I hope things get sorted out. If not, open up a can of whoop ass.

  19. The sheer incompetence you have described is now SOP in "healthcare". It is a shitshow for those of us currently trying to navigate the "system". No accountability unless you die & then, not much. I have been a darned good RN for the past 35 years (now retired). My family comes to me for answers & I have none. Don;'t back down from any of the non-carers you come in contact with. Tim depends on you! Hugs from Arizona.

  20. These sorts of things makes my blood boil. It is all fun and games until someone gets seriously harmed because of it and huge lawsuits result and then suddenly everyone takes it seriously.

  21. I shudder to think of the poor people who have no one to advocate for them or for whom English is a second language. When caring for a loved one, it is time for us to get our Bitch on and screw anyone who doesn't like it. I always start off nice and kind, but I'm not afraid to escalate if necessary. We are taught to be so afraid of offending someone-but if they are incompetent, they deserve it. Signed, a proud "Karen"!

  22. There are a lot of things wrong with our healthcare system in Australia but yours takes the cake. Lucky Tim has you to have his back.

  23. You could travel even further for better care: Vermont is supposed to be a good place for healthcare. Sorry the system is SO squirrely. And offices wonder why people don't follow-up with their appointments. Linda in Kansas

  24. Here at independent living, where I moved to feel safe, I've had two accidents attributable to wrong information being disseminated. All the people in charge are the age of my daughters. My oldest daughter had the brilliant idea of calling the young man in charge of the facility and explaining her mother's two accidents, cause and solution. The director paid a call on me and explained my daughter's call and his solution. He corrected the incorrect phone number in the instruction packet and he wrote/is writing a procedural manual for the director of every department. I could tell he was uncomfortable talking to me, vs. texting. Bless my daughter, the director of a department where she works, to hit on the solution of instructing a person on doing his job in the real world.

  25. This experience has been eye opening to say the least. The biggest problem is that when there IS a problem, nobody seems to think it is THEIR problem.

  26. I relayed your situation to my daughter who has had multiple confrontations with the medical community both for herself and her husband, both having major health problems. She asked me to tell you that just because the hospital thinks the patient should be discharged, doesn't mean you have to leave if you feel it is not safe to leave. You can demand proper medications to take with you, or that medical accessories have been made available before you take the patient home. If you don't sign off on the discharge papers they can't force you to leave.

  27. I'm saddened to read your saga. I hope it sorts itself - or rather that you are successful in sorting it.

    I should say that my experiences of the UK's National Health Service which has kept me alive since I first had most of a lung removed at 16 and prostate cancer in 1997 (when I was 53) has been nothing but exceptional and exemplary.

  28. Ugh. How frustrating -- especially that people seem so cavalier about trying to get the problems corrected. I'm sure you're not the only one to have complained about these issues so you'd think they'd be motivated to solve them!


I'm glad you're here!

Tim has a DIY Christmas

 Houdi continues to do alright. He's not himself, but he eats and he drinks. He is a bit more reclusive than usual, but he's stopped...