:: to the teeth ::   thoughts on social justice, medicine, race, hope and beats
"Another world is not only possible, she is on her way.
On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing." :: Arundhati Roy ::
"The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any." :: Alice Walker ::
Friday, May 20, 2005
Last week I "voluntarily" resigned my position as adjunct faculty member and locum tenens provider at the University of New Mexico Hospital. I joined a long and growing list of people who have either been pushed out or have read the writing on the wall and chosen to leave.
For me, it was a solid push. The precipitating incident was a phone call i made to one of the family practice clinics. Our public hospital had just instituted a new draconian policy of up front payment prior to being seen. Sounds benign enough on the surface, it's how many businesses operate. yet this is a public hospital. Let me share a story that brings it all to light so that you can understand why i took the step that got me kicked out.
a 17yo woman, pregnant, is getting her prenatal care at an outlying clinic. Her doctor decides she might be dehydrated so she sends her to the hospital for evaluation. At the front desk this person is asked for $35. She doesn't have it. She is told to go home and come back when she has the money. fair play? after advocates (my friends) arrived, this young woman was admitted for two days for IV rehydration. this also happened to a 14yo pregnant girl two weeks ago. she was coming in for her first prenatal visit and was turned away at the front desk for lack of $35. Ask the CEO about this and he says it was an error on the part of the front desk folks. Well... yes. It was their mistake to believe that a policy put in place by him was ethical and worth following.
So the policy had just been put in place one month prior. Our CEO was saying in public that only 25 people had been affected and only 18 of them had been turned away. I didn't believe him. I didn't believe that there was even any data being collected. So here was my crime. I called a clinic and asked the front desk person if they were collecting data. This person stated that she was told not to speak to anyone about this new policy, she couldn't help me. she transferred me to her manager and that's where the sparks started flying. I identified myself as a UNM physician (that's what my badge says) and I stated that I was doing community based research. My research question was - "Are you collecting data on how many patients are turned away because they don't have their copay?" this really iritated the manager and she became defensive, I became frustrated, we went back and forth and finally hung up on each other. I never got my answer.
Turns out she reported me to her boss who reported me higher and higher and higher until it became this huge "thing." I got a call two days later from my boss who said that we had to talk. Bottom line, I was accused of misrepresenting myself as a UNM Physician and of doing research without IRB approval. I was told that my action (a phone call) was unacceptable and warranted immediate resignation or else I would have my privileges suspended and be reported to the state licensing board. Inflated charges, ruined credit. The same treatment many of my patients are reeciving financially by the same bullies. poetic justice? I chose to resign to avoid a large fight so that I could continue to pump my energy into creating positive solutions to this mess.
This is NOT going to stop me from speaking out. As a matter of fact, it has inspired me to organize the many people who have been kicked out or chose to walk away. We are going to start by creating a bumper sticker and tee shirt - "UNMH - Been There, Done That."
posted by andru | 5/20/2005 01:17:00 PM | |
What did you expect??!!!
I hope you've axed the idea of the bumper sticker, instead focusing all your well-intentioned energies on helping people. Your actions (kudos to the ultrasound day at the topahkal) will definitely speak much louder than any bumper sticker out there.
# posted by : 7/03/2005 12:27 AM