Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A Little Restoration for My Faith in Humanity

After our horrible experience at the hospital a few weeks ago I sat down and wrote a very concise, non-emotional letter that spanned five pages, detailing our complaints and also providing direct quotations from hospital personnel (that I recorded on my cell phone) and then mailed it to the Arizona Department of Health Services, Hospital Human Resources Department, the Nursing Supervisor, the Emergency Room Manager, the CEO of the Hospital, and JCAHO (The Joint Commission Healthcare Organization which is the hospital's accrediting and licensing board).

Surprisingly, the complaint and the specifics entailed were taken very seriously by all who received the letter. Two days after I mailed the letters I had heard back from JCAHO that they were initiating an investigation. That same day I received a phone call from the Hospital CEO, who talked with me at length about the situation and said they were opening an internal investigation and this week I received another phone call from the Department of Health Services who are also opening an investigation. To say I am surprised is an understatement. Truthfully it makes me wonder if maybe they are in violation of some law or guideline that I am not aware of and they are trying to cover their butts before I figure out their incompetency is a bigger deal than I am currently aware of.

Then two days ago I found out that JCAHO did a surprise 5 day survey of the hospital that spanned all of last week. That same day I received a phone call from the CEO who informed me that disciplinary measures had been taken (I'm guessing as a result of the JCAHO visit and subsequent consequences although I am still awaiting a letter from them detailing their findings) and that I could either come in to discuss those or the Emergency Department Director would call me the following day to go over those. I chose the latter.

After a lengthy conversation in which the Director acknowledged fault with the way his nurses handled the situation I found out the following:

* Starting two weeks ago (so within days of my complaint) all staff involved in this incident have been required to take a 3 month class that spans customer service, communication skills, sensitivity training, and the like.
* The lead nurse who claimed he was the House Supervisor when he was not has been formally disciplined including a letter in his file for not properly identifying himself....apparently a major JCAHO violation.
* The triage nurse is being made to retake her competency certification (triage nurses complete additional certification and must renew annually) and until passed has been removed from triage.
* All involved were also required to take a refresher course on appropriate triage procedure.

Truthfully, this is more than I expected when I wrote the letter. My intention was to let them know I was upset and that I was not going to pay the copay they tried to charge me. Since there was no further problems with my son I realized that beyond reprimanding them there was not much that could be done. I guess I expected an apology and wanted to make them aware that there is a general standard of care that is an expectation when entering a hospital and that there is also an appropriate way to communicate with people that oftentimes those in the medical profession overlook or intentionally disregard. I have no doubt that most of them were and are probably great clinicians, but medical professionals also have to be able to communicate effectively with patients and parents of patients and when that doesn't happen it leads to confusion and frustration. As I told both the CEO and the Emergency Director, had there been appropriate and effective communication they would never have received a letter nor would they be having the conversations over the course of the last two weeks with me that they have been having.

So, I suppose the point of this ramble is to say that I had a little faith in humanity restored during this process. I got the feeling that there are still decent human beings out there who take responsibility when they make a mistake and I also was proud of myself for sticking up for my kid and myself when I felt he was mistreated and felt like my concerns were disregarded and ignored and then had both doctors and the CEO agree that yes, he, my husband and myself were treated very poorly and they didn't try to make excuses for that behavior but instead outlined steps to correct and improve it for the future. I guess, ultimately, that is all I ever wanted.


Nancy said...

Moxie You are my hero!
No doubt the manner in which your letter was written was a contributing factor to having the incident reviewed by everyone involved.
It's good to know that employees were required to go through more training and reprimanded as necessary.
They should be thanking their luck stars that there WERE no further problems with your son.

Robyn said...

Good for YOU!!! What makes me happy (as an attorney who sees what "could have" happened from the hospital's incompetency) is that it won't happen to another patient who might not have had as good of an outcome as your son.

Are you going to write a letter thanking the various boards for their diligence?

Joanne said...

I'm glad the hospital administration stepped up to the plate and took responsibility, at your initiative. Good for you for following through on this incident, it definitely warranted it. I hope the changes that come are for the better and longlasting.

Moxymama said...

Thanks ladies! As a bit of a natural cynic I have my doubts about how long lasting this will be, but I just hope that they will think twice in the future before treating anyone else this way.
Robyn, yeah I had planned to write letters to all once all investigations are complete. The CEO of the hospital and ED Director certainly deserve recognition and appreciation for the way they handled this.

Johnson and Johnson said...

Wow, I'm impressed. Good job sticking up for your family and for remembering the details.... I"m sure that made a huge difference. I know for me in times of stress and trial I forget details and I get so worked up. Seems like you took the time to document the right things and it worked in your advantage... good for you!!!!

Moxymama said...

Thanks J and J....I think you are right. The CEO actually said they were so used to people yelling and screaming at them that they were impressed I took the time to write a factual letter and then speak calmly with them on the phone. I guess they are used to dealing with lunatics. :)