This was a week of complaints! It seemed that almost every woman with whom I spoke had negative things to say about her care.. Some of their complaints seemed fairly minor (being asked to stand in line while waiting to check in at the Reception Desk) and some seemed really important (feeling that their doctor barely knew or cared about them). Sometimes I can make useful suggestions re improving or solving a particular problem, but more often all I can do is listen and empathize.
Our hospital has always prided itself on caring for our patients the way we would want our families to be cared for. We are proud of the informal "Harvard with a heart" that is often used to describe us. It makes me so sad to hear of times that we are falling short. I suspect that the bottom line is the bottom line--meaning money. Budgets are so tight, and everyone is so worried about costs and funding and the changes in health care that every dollar is being carefully scrutinized. This is universal at all US hospitals, but it hurts when I see some of the small changes at my own.
However, reading this essay by Susan Gubar has heartened me. When you read it (and I hope that you do), you likely will be puzzled by that sentence, so here is the explanation: She describes really scary careless medical care experienced by a friend at an unnamed hospital in the Midwest. I am sure, really sure, that this would not have happened at BIDMC. That makes me happy.
Here is the beginning and then a link to read more:
Living With Cancer: Careless Care
When I consider what happened to an esteemed friend and colleague, I fume at the mayhem that ovarian cancer wreaks and at the deficient care she received at a university hospital in another town. Do instances of medical negligence sometimes go unnoticed because patients are so debilitated that they cannot testify — especially if they are still in treatment?
After diagnosis, surgery and a round of chemotherapy, my friend had developed a habit of talking with me on the phone every Sunday night. Because of her bounteous insight and candor, it was a great pleasure for me, even though we often discussed her depression. As the months passed, she began suffering from abdominal pain, constipation and rectal bleeding, and her anxieties grew. A CT confirmed growing malignancies.