Saturday, February 3, 2007

Health sCare

My dad just gave a privileged senate speech about our recent experiences at CHC. It was a personal account, but the message is for everyone: if our health care providers don't begin seriously looking at the quality of services, not only will our people languish in our hospital with improper equipment and lack of staff, but they will wither away mentally before they can even be offered any physical relief. My husband spent a total of six agonizing days at the hospital. There were times when we angrily demanded to see a doctor, times when we begged in frustration and times when we were just exhausted and could barely whisper a request to have a doctor paged. All this happened as he was being pumped up with dosage after dosage of morphine, demerol and reglan. I watched helplessly as nurses came in to take his blood pressure, their eyes careful not to make contact with ours in case we asked simple question like,"how much longer until we see a doctor?". They knew as well as we did that no one would come, even if paged and that my husband had to endure more hours in pain. We were told he suffered from kidney stones (jagged little pieces that tear and scratch as they move down the kidney to the ...) They didn't know how many there were, they guessed at where they could be lodged (somewhere between the kidney itself and the urethra?), they did ultrasound after ultrasound as we waited and waited for answers which never came. At the end of a long five days, we asked for a referral. We explained that we would pay for our airfare and all other expenses, but that we needed to leave so that we could get adequate care. We met the most extraordinary opposition we could imagine. His attending physician suddenly could not say that he was suffering from a kidney ailment, that he needed more time and tests, that we were being pre-mature, that if we kept insisting, he would merely "wash his hands" of us. We left anyways, knowing that they wouldn't endorse our going. I remember asking a nurse point blank, "if this were someone you loved or you, would you still be here?". She told me very clearly that she would have been gone days before.

Many of our people do not have the resources to take their sick off-island or the audacity as we had, to challenge the lack of care they receive. Sadly, our health care system falls deeper and deeper into complacency, forgetting that they serve real people with real feelings. They forget that while people walk into their bubble with specific physical symptoms, there is a larger dimension of treatment that needs to be addressed. We told the doctors that if we had felt like someone cared, it would have made a world of difference. We are taxpayers, and when we are admitted into our hospital, we expect to be informed and respected. If our health care facilities are not equipped to treat certain problems, then patients need to given viable options before matters get worse. Relieving kidney stones can be a simple procedure. Shockwave and ultrasound treatment can pulverize stones in the junction. No one has to endure excruciating pain while they "naturally" leave the body. Let me use a laboring mother as an analogy. Would it be logical to give a woman in labor demerol or an epidural and not finish the task of delivering the baby? If pain persists and mother or child's heart rate drops, cesarean sections are done immediately.

Though they had no way to remove the stones, and they admitted that they were unable to perform surgery if he needed it, they outright refused to endorse our transfer to another hospital that could. I'm not sure that there is any explanation for it other than sheer arrogance and defensiveness. What angers me most is that many people accept this attitude, unable or unwilling to stand up and say that it is innately wrong to be treated in such a manner, especially at the hands of people you consider healers.

What happened to us CNMI? Why do we live in such a beautiful place and tolerate such inefficiency? I say,"VOTERS UNITE"!

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