Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Duke Medical ignores phone calls from a dying man

I am sitting with my dad. He is suffering and his doctors at Duke Medical (oncology) don't seem to care.

The most disgusting part of this is being subjected to Duke Medical oncology television advertisements promoting how much they care about their cancer patients. Let me be simple: Duke Medical is not the place it used to be.

I was raised in the Durham, North Carolina area. I was raised with the idea that Duke Medical was the pre-eminent place for patients when they are ill. That may have been the case in the before the year 2000. Now, sadly, Duke is just another medical facility where administrators control physicians and surgeons and where the almighty dollar is king.

By all empirical evidence, Duke Medical hires sub-competent paraprofessionals that run a majority of the facility. I recall when I was a cancer patient at Duke in 2006. The Duke oncologist (Dr. Kimmick) told me to not expect too much from support staff because "they are not that bright." Kimmick actually told me (a cancer patient) that the Duke paraprofessionals aren't very good because Duke does not pay much. She said that they might have better personnel if Duke paid better! Excuse me . . . why is that my problem?

I had orthopedic surgery at Duke (the only department that I would even remotely recommend). But even in orthopedics, the billing department and medical coders were so incompetent that PTs, physicians and surgeons never got paid. For example, BCBS would not pay Duke PT until and unless Duke gave BCBS copies of medical records and a referral from the orthopedic surgeon. Duke never did that! And then the incompetent medical coders coded post operative x-rays as "routine foot x-ray for flat foot disorder." What? Well, I tried to explain that to Duke. And then they recoded as something equally stupid.

Patients have contractual relationships with their insurance companies and their doctors. Medical facilities/doctors have contractual relationships with the insurance companies. And if the medical facilities don't get the claim to the insurance company within a certain time frame, insurance does not pay the claim. So where does the burden fall?

Does the medical facility care more about their contract with the insurance company than the patient. It seems so at Duke.

If you have even perused this blog, you know that Duke University Hospital has tried everything possible to kill my dad. Neglect, mistreatment, abuse. And no one steps up and is accountable. Dad is 76 years old. Duke Medical does not care about my dad. They have made that clear during each and every hospitalization in Durham, NC.

But now it is more insidious. Now even dad's Duke Clinic oncologist will not return our telephone calls. It has been over a week.

My poor dad. Broken ankle that won't heal. Cancer that cannot be treated because of the broken bone. Duke Medical's Ms. Sharon Maddox suggests that my dad find another medical facility if we are unhappy at Duke Medical. That is sweet, Duke and Ms. Maddox. Duke Medical mistreats an elderly man and puts him on the edge of death and then throw up your hands and say - this is the best we are going to do for him. Don't like it? Go somewhere else.

Well I am here to warn you - know your hospitalist (hospital doctor). Don't let a stranger treat you or your loved one - even if they have a white coat on that says "Duke."

And I am also here to warn you that you better care about what is happening in the current politics as it relates to health care reform. "Medicare for all" is a horrifying possibility. Good doctors will leave and we will be stuck with the incompetents that cannot get a better job than that of a hospitalist.

  • Watching a man die.
  • Calling his oncologist at Duke Medical over the last week and getting no response.
  • It's been a long day for me.

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