Healthcare for All. Healthcare for All?

From December 7-8, 2016, I attended a seminar through my work put on by The Institute for Healthcare Improvement. All of the workshops I attended were great, but one in particular stuck out in my mind. The workshop was titled “When Tragedy Strikes, Will You Be Prepared?: Insights and Stories from Orlando Health.” For those of you that may not know, Orlando Regional Medical Center (OH) is located 0.3 miles from Pulse Nightclub. As such, the majority of the shooting victims were treated at this hospital.

As medical professionals, we must treat all patients—regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, physical appearance, or economic status. One of the most amazing things I heard from the OH discussion was that they waived out-of-pocket expenses for the victims. This amounted to almost $5 million dollars. They made sure the people that walked into their doors were treated; in most cases, lives were saved. They did not ask questions first, like the typical, “What kind of insurance do you have?” or “Do you have an illnesses for which we should take precautions?” Instead, it was, “Let’s get these people the help they need RIGHT NOW.” OH was the perfect example of Healthcare for All.

One of the departments that I currently manage is Pain Management. We are often called the “drug dealers.” Patients with chronic injuries or illnesses that give them pain come to see our doctors to get some relief of that pain. Some of these patients are Cancer fighters; others deal with fibromyalgia; some deal with pain stemming from an accident many years ago never healed quite right. We also have the drug users. Many people come in and expect to be given a prescription for a strong narcotic medication, either to keep their own addiction alive, or to sell their prescription to someone else. It is because of these last patients that we have measures in place to prevent prescriptions from getting into the wrong hands.

A while back, I had one of the doctors refusing to see a patient based on sight alone. (FYI, this doctor no longer works in my office, for many reasons other than this.) The gentleman had both a full sleeve arm and leg tattoos, quarter-sized plugs in his earlobes, wore camouflage shorts, a black band shirt, and a trucker hat. The doctor asked me, as the manager, to go into the room to tell the patient that he would not see him. When I asked why, he said, “Just look at him, you know he’s just a drug seeker.” I asked him, “Have you reviewed his medical history?,” to which he said, “I don’t need to, I can tell already.” I looked at the patient’s history and found that he had several chronic issues, including a severe case of necrotizing pancreatitis, which he needed to be treated for. I then told the doctor, “Review his file, see the patient.” When he again protested, I told him, “You’re too busy prejudging this patient to see that he has real issues. If you want me to go into that room, I will tell him that the doctor is an ass that is refusing to see him based on his looks, and I will also give him the phone number to the medical board.” He rolled his eyes then went in to see the patient.

Afterward, he came out and apologized to me and said he was wrong, confirming the patient did have issues. He said, “When you see all those tattoos, you just know they’re bad news.” I told him not to judge people by appearances as I myself have several tattoos, and a few of the staff members chimed in talking about their own tattoos. He was shocked to learn this, and said, “I would have never guessed.” I was about to stand on a soapbox and make a grand speech about appearances and how my professional appearance would never reflect my casual marijuana use and social drinking habits, just as this gentleman, who works in the film industry as a graphic designer could be the straightest edge in the room. However, I kept my mouth shut for a couple of reasons: first, several of my staff were within an earshot, and I need my job. Second, he had already announced his resignation, so he was not worth the lecture. Instead, I smiled my brightest smile that I reserve for people to whom I want to say, “You’re a dick” and, instead, said “It’s really important that we actually review patient’s files before making rash decisions to not treat.” I then walked away from him.

When I relayed the story to my boss, her reply was, “What a dick!”


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