Throughout my life I have encountered numerous situations that made me seriously question the integrity, motives and competency of orthodox health practitioners. I know in my heart that there are thousands of dedicated doctors, nurses, veterinarians, chiropractors, and support people who provide quality care and compassion for patients.
Unfortunately, my experiences have yielded few instances that positively impacted my opinion of the medical community in general. Therefore, I can only draw my conclusions from my personal dealings.
I was a big fan of ER and my wife loves Grey’s Anatomy. But we both question their saint-like portrayal of doctors and nurses. What always amuses me is the classic situation where an ambulance races into the emergency parking lot carrying a patient with a non-life-threatening injury. Barely into the parking lot, a mob of doctors and nurses surround the ambulance the minute it comes to a stop and they all huddle around the patient with IV’s and stethoscopes and life-saving equipment.
Unless you’re suffering from severe chest pain or a major artery is gushing blood, you’d be lucky to get treatment in a hospital emergency room in less than four hours let alone immediately. This grim picture may be more about the system than about the people. But a recent experience of mine has reinforced the notion that whenever dealing with health issues and healthcare providers, you’d better assume the role as your own advocate. My particular situation was with one of my cats and a local vet.
Alexandra or Alex as we like to call her, is my 16-year-old tuxedo cat (black with a white bib). Over the last few months her appetite has decreased considerably and over the last 6 years she’s gone from 16 pounds to 10 pounds. Dealing with the vet was pleasant. She was very patient, answered all of our questions and didn’t seem like she was rushing us in any way. After hearing our story and physically examining Alex, she suggested a series of diagnostic tests: blood work, urine analysis, X-rays, and a dozen other tests. When we asked her how much it would cost, she basically said that she doesn’t deal with the charges and would let someone else give us a recap.
So, after a few minutes a very pleasant young woman entered the room with an itemized computer printout of each test, various medications, etc. and the associated prices. The total was $412. We, of course, told her to proceed. When the tests were completed, the vet delivered the bad news. Alex has CRF (Chronic Renal Failure). The vet painted a rather grim picture and suggested that we have them perform an ultrasound. We again asked how much and of course she had no idea. The “closer” returned and the estimate for the ultrasound was $327. Based on a lengthy conversation with the vet, we pretty much determined that the ultrasound was not really critical, nor would it change the diagnosis or treatment.
The course of treatment was for us to leave Alex with the vet for an entire day so they could flush the toxins from her kidneys through an IV. This is not a cure, only a treatment. Again, the vet could not quote the cost. So, we dropped Alex off early in the morning and the “closer” gave me an estimate for 3 consecutive treatments. The cost: $1,100. Based on our own research and do-diligence, my wife and I felt that Alex needed one, maybe two treatments, but not three. The estimate for two treatments was $824. We asked that they perform the first treatment and then we’d decide if we wanted to proceed with the second treatment.
Well, my wife spoke to the vet and explained our decision and let her know that we would decide if we wanted the second treatment when we picked up Alex at the end of the first treatment. Six hours later my wife called the office to find out how Alex was tolerating the treatment. The woman on the phone said, “What treatment?” My wife went on to explain. As it worked out, Alex sat in a cage for six miserable hours and they didn’t so much as take her temperature.
Apparently, the vet was waiting for us to call and give her the go ahead for treatment. What? Isn’t that why we dropped her off in the first place? Isn’t that why we paid in advance for two treatments with the understanding that if we decided not to have Alex undergo the second treatment they could issue a credit to our charge card? Was there any reason for us to have dropped Alex off if we didn’t want the first treatment? When we spoke to the vet, she had a case of selected memory and was very defensive. She didn’t apologize or even consider that she was in error. The office manager recognized that it was their fault, but never did the vet fess up.
Now, of course, we wouldn’t consider going back to this vet for love or money. We decided to consult a vet who practices holistic medicine. The good news is that for no particular reason except that Alex has been getting plenty of affection from mommy and daddy, her appetite has modestly improved. The only problem is that the only food that appeals to her is Friskies Meaty Filets in gravy. Considering that neither my wife nor I eat beef, it is a bit of an irony.