Medical Negligence through Apathy

By: Loolwa Khazzoom, Founder, Dancing with Pain

April 7th, 2009 • Patient AdvocacyPrint Print

I just sent this letter today, about continued medical negligence through apathy at my mom’s nursing facility. I then followed up by phone. Fortunately, the staff was repsonsive, and my mom is now getting all the medical attention she needs. I have changed names to initials in this post.

April 6, 2009

Dear A,

On Saturday evening, my mom was coughing again and expressed that she felt physical sensations similar to when she contracted pneumonia.  I spoke with her nurse on call that evening.  The nurse advised me that a doctor was coming the next day, and that she would ask the doctor to examine my mother. The next day, however, my mother told me that the doctor had been there but had not visited her.

I spoke with the nurse on call Sunday afternoon. She told me that the doctor had in fact been there; but that he could not see my mother, because my mother was not his patient.  I told her that it did not matter who my mother’s doctor was — that she need to be seen by somebody.

She told me that my mother could only be seen once a month by a doctor.  I stressed that I was not asking for a routine examination, but for a response to potential illness.  I also reminded her that this non-responsive medical approach is exactly what led to my mother contracting pneumonia.

The nurse put V [the charge nurse] on the line.  V seemed irritated and said to me, “This is not a hospital.  This is a nursing facility.  We do not have doctors examining patients all the time.  If you want that, you have to go somewhere else.  The doctors just come once a month here.” 

Again, I emphasized that my mother was not feeling well — that I was not asking for a routine examination.  She said it didn’t matter and advised me that if I needed my mother to see a doctor, she would have to go to the emergency room.  “So you’re telling me that even if someone is sick, you will not have them see a doctor at the facility, but just in the emergency room?”  She said yes.

I know for a fact that this is not your policy, and it is highly problematic that V chose to assert that it is.  I did not see the point of arguing with her, however, so I just said okay and got off the phone. 

I am nonetheless alarmed once again by the apathy that your nursing staff is exhibiting towards my mother – especially considering that after our conference a few weeks ago, we signed a document promising that the nurses would take a proactive approach to my mother’s care.

My mother reports that after I got off the phone with V, V and N went to my mother and insisted that she drink water, as the purported solution to her feeling unwell.  This is exactly what happened the first month my mother was in the nursing facility:

Despite her persistent cough and our repeated requests for a medical examination, the only response my mother got was the nurses telling her to drink more water. Had they taken my mother seriously and responded appropriately, my mother would not have had to go through the trauma of contracting pneumonia and receiving the invasive treatment for it.

It is stressful on my mother’s system to have to be transported by ambulance and wait many hours in the emergency room, every time she needs a medical exam. In addition, the medical staff there is so busy responding to the needs of trauma patients that they often have left my mother lying alone without responding to her simple needs, such as bringing her a cup of water or changing her diaper.

It is a basic health request to ask that she be seen by a doctor at the nursing facility, or if not at the facility, then off site – where she can have an appointment and receive care in a calm environment.  At this time, she needs attention to the following matters:

  1. Examination of her lungs, to determine whether the pneumonia may be affecting her again.
  2. Medical authorization to take an additional Neurontin for anxiety she is experiencing
  3. Urinary test, to ensure that she does not have a bladder infection
  4. ENT exam of her vocal chords – which the ENT doctor failed to do when he examined her.

When you have had the chance to read through this letter, please contact me to discuss moving forward.

Loolwa Khazzoom

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