‘It’s not a choice’: Hospitals refusing to take on new patients
For many patients, the hospital experience at a hospice facility can feel like a long, drawn-out wait.
“It’s a nightmare,” says Melissa, a 70-year-old from New York who has had a kidney transplant, a heart transplant, and two operations to repair her heart.
“You have to go to the emergency room every week and get an appointment with a doctor.”
Melissa’s family was able to take advantage of hospice care when her brother, a doctor, died.
“He died of heart failure,” she says.
“My mom was very excited and told me that he was going to take me to the hospital.”
After his death, Melissa’s mom took over the care of her elderly mother, who was dying of cancer.
Melissa and her mother had been battling for years over whether to have a second surgery, which she had refused, and how she would pay for it.
When Melissa was admitted to the hospice, she found out that she would have to wait a month to see a doctor.
“She told me it would be three weeks before I could see a medical professional,” Melissa recalls.
“I was crying and saying I can’t wait.”
A month later, Melissa was waiting to see an optometrist.
She had a cataract surgery and had two other surgeries to repair a damaged retina.
The optometrists said that she should be allowed to see them in a week, and after her next appointment, Melissa would be able to see one doctor a week.
“When I told them that I would need a second appointment in two weeks, they said, ‘Well, then it’s a choice’,” Melissa recalls, her voice breaking with emotion.
Melissa is one of many patients who have found themselves in a situation where they had to choose between a hospital stay and a hospiced care appointment.
“I’m a retiree who works in nursing, and I can only stay in the hospital for so long,” Melissa says.
“But I don’t have a choice.
I have to get this treatment or I have no choice.
It’s a tough decision.”
Health care workers who have experienced the same dilemmas are also trying to make sense of it all.
“This is just another way for people to get access to health care,” says Stephanie, a nurse practitioner from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.
“The patients have no way to know if it’s going to be the right thing for them.”
We don’t know how they’re going to feel about it,” she adds.
One way health care workers are trying to figure out is what’s happening to patients like Melissa.”
If I go to a hospices, I know they’re waiting to get an emergency room appointment.
They’re not going to make an emergency plan, so they can’t be there for me,” says Dr. Stephen Trowbridge, a professor of nursing and director of the nursing program at the University at Buffalo.
He says patients are sometimes surprised when they are told they can wait for a second or third appointment to get their treatment.”
That’s not what the patient is looking for,” Trowbridges said.”
The patient wants to get treatment right away.
That’s what they want.
They don’t want to wait for two to three weeks. And I don