Hospital Horror Stories

Hospital terrors

You’re sick, and you need expert medical attention in a hurry. Where do you go? The emergency room, of course. But, despite the overall professionalism and intelligence of ER doctors and staff, some bad apples are bound to fall out of the bag — doctors are only human. Here are a few cringe-inducing stories of ER visits gone terribly, tragically awry. Photo Credit: Getty Images


Left to die in the waiting room

Last year, a video was released that showed a patient dying in a Brooklyn hospital waiting room as staff ignored her. According to The New York Times, she "had been waiting for nearly 24 hours when she collapsed from a blood clot." I watched the video; it is indeed disturbing. A security guard looks at the dying woman sprawled out on the waiting room floor. He walks away indifferently. Some time later, it looks like another staffer — a nurse, it would appear — kicks her to see if the patient is alive. The hospital was described in a previous lawsuit as a “chamber of filth, decay, indifference and danger.” The New York Daily News reports that the family of the deceased woman has since settled with the city for $2 million. If you find me dying one day, in the Brooklyn area, please don’t take me there... I would rather leave this world with some shred of dignity. Worried about your health care coverage? Check out our recent story on vital health insurance enrollment info. Don't let yourself fall through the cracks. Photo Credit: Getty Images


Turned away because of an outstanding balance

New York Times columnist and economist Paul Krugman wrote about the misfortune of a “young Ohio woman named Trina Bachtel, who was having health problems while pregnant, [and] tried to get help at a local clinic. Unfortunately, she had previously sought care at the same clinic while uninsured and had a large unpaid balance. The clinic wouldn’t see her again unless she paid $100 per visit — which she didn’t have. Eventually, she sought care at a hospital 30 miles away. By then, however, it was too late. Both she and the baby died.” One question: How does that hospital administrator go to sleep at night? (According to a correction later posted to the Times story, however, those unpaid “bills did not lead to loss of care.”) Regardless, she is still dead. Photo Credit: Getty Images


No insurance? Die

Krugman relates in the same piece a chilling story that was originally covered by the Wall Street Journal in 2006. He wrote about “a young woman named Monique White, who failed to get regular care for lupus because she lacked insurance. Then, one night, ‘as skin lesions spread over her body and her stomach swelled, she couldn’t sleep.’” White wanted to go to the hospital, but didn’t have insurance and feared the cost of the bill. As Krugman reported: “She was rushed to the hospital the next day after suffering a seizure — and the hospital spared no expense on her treatment. But it all came too late; she was dead a few months later.” As Mr. Krugman explains, just because you are not denied emergency room treatment does not mean that the uninsured have a fair shake at good health care: “Visits to the emergency room are no substitute for regular care, which can identify and treat health problems before they get acute. And more than 40 percent of uninsured adults have no regular source of care.” Photo Credit: Getty Images


Waiting for 34 hours

According to a CTV.ca article, “a man died after waiting 34 hours in a Winnipeg emergency room for treatment.” The Canadian broadcast network shares a similar, although slightly less drastic, story: “One year ago, a small cut on Rush Wenzoski's right hand turned into a four-day health-care nightmare. When the five-centimetre cut became infected, Wenzoski's partner, Krystal Davis, drove him first to the emergency room in Beausejour, Man. Staff there said they could not care for Wenzoski and the couple drove 35 minutes to the hospital in Selkirk. After a seven-hour wait in Selkirk, a doctor told them Wenzoski would need surgery and they were sent to the Winnipeg Health Sciences Centre. […] The couple waited for three days.” He had reportedly still not been administered antibiotics or pain meds—eventually he was operated on, but the doctor “cut into his hand and left the nearly eight-centimetre gash open, exposing joints and bones.” Now he has a four-inch scar and limited functionality of the hand. Not good at all, especially considering he is a mechanic and needs both of his hands to do his work. Photo Credit: Getty Images


Unwanted “new anus” surgery

As covered by FOXNews.com, “A German retiree is taking a hospital to court after she went in for a leg operation and got a new anus instead, the Daily Telegraph is reporting. The woman woke up to find she had been mixed up with another patient suffering from incontinence who was to have surgery on her sphincter.” And the worst of it is that she still needs to get the leg operation! I hope her lawyer kicks some butt in court. Photo Credit: Getty Images


Sent home to die

As reported by The Daily Mail (UK), “A girl of two died of suspected swine flu the day after hospital doctors allegedly told her parents she had no illness and sent her home. Michelle Fernando, two, began showing symptoms a week after her mother was diagnosed with the virus in November. Her worried father took her to hospital but said medics sent them home, telling him to give the little girl Calpol and water.” Someone made a huge mistake here. Photo Credit: Getty Images


Outlandish overcharges

Bankrate.com reports that Nora Johnson’s “56-year-old husband, Bill, underwent hip-replacement surgery in 1999. The cost of the operation was $25,000. Knowing that her family would have to pay a percentage of the costs, she requested an itemized bill. ‘What I got was five feet of single-spaced names and codes,’ recalls Johnson. Written in ‘hospital-speak,’ some of it made sense, she says, while some of it was absurd. ‘Like the charge for newborn blood tests and a crib mobile. That stopped me in my tracks,’ recalls Johnson. ‘As far as I know, my husband never had a baby.’” Always check the bill. In Ms. Johnson’s case, the egregious bill caused her to become a trained medical billing advocate — presumably to prevent others from experiencing the same stress. Photo Credit: Getty Images


$129 for Kleenex

Following her husband’s $25,000 bill and her career transition into medical billing, Nora Johnson became an expert on hospital pricing. She explained in an MSN Money article that some hospitals charge upwards of $100 for Kleenex… "'I've seen $90 charged for a 70-cent I.V. How about $129 for a mucous recovery system? That's a box of Kleenex,' Johnson adds. She's also seen charges for ordinary supplies, such as towels and sheets, that should be included in the room charges. Johnson says some overcharges are mistakes, but many are deliberate. ‘Hospitals are huge moneymakers,’ she explains. ‘Their executives enjoy big bonuses.’” I wish I were smart enough to charge my roommates $129 for a “mucous recovery system” — or how about the same amount for “disposable liquid retention technology” (paper cups)… Man, I’d be so rich. The MSN story says that hospitals overcharge patients an estimated $10 billion per year. Photo Credit: Getty Images


Have a bad experience?

Have your own hospital horror story? Share it with us here in the comments, or on our Facebook page. Get the facts out there and let your voice be heard. Photo Credit: Getty Images


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