I’m not saying there isn’t lots of evidence that many or even
most of the staffs of the hospitals I’ve been in are
intelligent, caring, dedicated people. But these seem like
issues that someone like that would be able to fix.
My most recent stay was overnight after surgery for a broken
ankle, and my previous stays have not involved a lot of bedpans,
but they have all involved surgeons who think they’ve told me
Surgeon’s and communication
This one I’m sure is common, because it’s happened every time
I’ve had general anaesthesia. Apparently, when you’re coming out
of it, there’s a period when you look awake, but you don’t really
remember anything that happens then.
This is when surgeons all come over and tell you how the
The nurses all know about this problem, so if you think of it,
and can ask the nurse who was there when the surgeon told you
stuff, she can tell you what you want to know.
Unfortunately, this most recent time, I didn’t think to ask
until I was in my room, and the nurse there said that she thought
it had gone well, but I’d have to ask the doctor for more
I had to use one all night, because they wouldn’t let me get up
until I was cleared by Physical Therapy.
The bedpans are the right size for someone with a normal
bladder who is evacuating some of what they have drunk. They are
way too small for someone who’s getting iv fluids.
I tested healthcare.gov on the morning of October 1, before
I’d read any news stories about the problems,
and it worked fine for my purposes. This is because I live in
Massachusetts, so all I needed was a pointer to the Mass site,
where I wasn’t at that time able to find out my options, but I was
able to read a couple of articles about what was likely to change
Since then I’ve gotten two communications from my insurance
company. One was a “magazine” with an article stating that
everyone would have to go on the health care exchange because all
the current policies were ending on December 31. This was a
little alarming, but I decided to ignore it until the deadline was
A week or so later, I got a letter addressed to me personally,
informing me that I did not have to do anything to keep
my current coverage — that if I did nothing my current plan would
be replaced by one with a different name, which would be no more
expensive and might have better coverage. So I only needed to
shop for a new plan if I didn’t like the current one.
I still don’t have the details about the new plan, but since
I’m quite happy with the old plan, I’m not worried about it.
But I’m glad I’m not in a state where I have to depend on
healthcare.gov to find out my options. Apparently the decision to
make shopping impossible without registration was made about a
week before the site went live, and it was known before October 1
that registration didn’t work in major ways.
I have a friend who takes a prescription for a seizure
disorder, that if she doesn’t take it every day she could well
die, if she has a seizure at the wrong time. She has a rant about
how any drug without major public health consequences should be
available over-the-counter to anyone who thinks they need it. She
is unusually good at dealing with complex systems, and she still
has problems if she goes on vacation or changes insurance
companies or whatever.
The insulin I take for my diabetes isn’t in quite that life-sustaining
category, but the health care providers I talk to do claim that
it’s pretty important to take it every day. But that’s not what
the people who work in the system for getting me refills when I’m
out seem to think.
Here’s the system.
- When I go to the pharmacy, I get a vial with 1000 units of
- I inject myself with, currently 45 units of insulin, every
day. I’m supposed to modify this if necessary, going up if my
blood sugars are running high, or down if I’m getting low blood
sugar reactions. The last time I talked to my doctor, I was
taking only 40 units, but I upped that after getting my
haemoglobin A1C result from that visit.
- When I point out to the pharmacy that 1000 units is not a 30
day supply, they explain that the shelf life of the insulin is
only 28 days, so they don’t want to give me 2 of them, so
they’ll just give me another one a little sooner. Usually this
- However, the prescription is written for 1 year or 12
refills. 12 refills takes noticeably less than a year.
- So last Monday, I called to get a refill and the computer
told me that I didn’t have any refills left, and it would notify
my doctor that I needed a new prescription.
- This usually works, but this time, whoever processes these
requests (I think not either a doctor or a nurse, so it’s quite
possible that this person didn’t even know that Lantus is a form
of insulin) decided that they couldn’t really need a new
prescription, because it was under a year since I got the old
one. This seems to be the real breakdown in the system — if I
say I need insulin, and the pharmacy says they need a new
prescription, the system maybe should allow this person to argue
with the pharmacy, but certainly shouldn’t allow them to just
ignore the request.
- Three days, and about a dozen phone calls later, I talked to
a nurse, and finally got her to agree to get the doctor to write
a new prescription.
This has nothing to do with Obamacare, because this problem has
existed in some form for at least a decade. It probably isn’t
really related to government health care, although the Cambridge
Hospital Association, which operates both the pharmacy and the
clinic in this story, is funded in a major way by the city of
Cambridge. My friend with the seizure disorder isn’t using
government-operated healthcare any more than anyone else in this
But I have been hitting this problem for a decade, and every
time I hit it, I mention to my health care provider that the
system seems to be screwed up. Most recently, I told the nurse
who finally got me the prescription, and she said she understood
my concerns, but not that she knew of any way to address them.
So it’s probably time to call or write someone else. You can
consider this a rough draft of that letter.