Wednesday, April 5, 2006
Help Me Howard: Surgery
A South Florida man visiting a hospital for a serious procedure. Trouble is, it required doctors to leave something 'inside' his body. Then when it came time to have it removed, the hospital said if you don't pay us, we won't take it out. Now he's calling "Help Me Howard" with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN--Rene Rojas will never forget that awful feeling.
Rene Rojas: "I was throwing up. I was turning yellow. I was jaundiced."
It got so bad...He had to head to the emergency room -- where doctors agreed he had a serious problem.
Rene Rojas: "I was admitted into the hospital they ran some tests, then out of nowhere, they performed this special procedure where they put a stint into the liver to drain me out."
Rene spent two weeks in the hospital.
Rene Rojas: "I got my color back and they released me with the tube. We're going to schedule you now, three weeks from now to get it removed."
In three weeks rene went back to get the drainage tube taken out of his side... And thats when he says the hospital told him... open your wallet or walk out.
Rene Rojas: "They were like if you don't have the money we won't be able to do it."
Rene Rojas: "I told them, let's try to work a payment plan. As soon as I get it out and I recover I will be able to go back to work."
But the hospital refused.
Rene Rojas: "They sent me home like that with this clamp."
A hospital employee did make one suggestion... Try to find another hospital to remove it.
Rene Rojas: "They said if you want you can go to Jackson, you could go to baptist. They'll take it out."
But whe he called other hospitals they told him... The had to go back to the place that inserted the tube... And they continued to refuse to help him.
Rene Rojas: "I thought that was crazy. How can you insert something into somebody's stomach into their body and then your going to say you can't remove it because you don't have the money."
Out of work and in pain... he called Help Me Howard.
Howard Finkelstein: "This is likely a case of patient abandonment. Under the law ... a doctor or a hospital cannot unilaterally sever the relationship without giving enough time or arranging for alternative treatment. What that boils down to is they started this procedure, so they have finish it."
After we interviewed Rene he took a dramatic turn for the worse... And had to be rushed to Jackson Memorial.
Rene Rojas: "I was having abdominal pains, I was throwing up, and I was turning jaundiced again, so finally I got admitted. They replaced it with the new stint, and they replaced it with this bag, so I don't know what I'm going to do now."
And now he faces bills for the same procedure all over again.
But Howard says there's hope.
Howard Finkelstein: "If a doctor or a hospital does abandon a patient, and as a result of the abandonment, the patient suffers harm, that doctor is responsilbe to pay for the harm done. So in this case, at the very least, the first hospital would likely be held responsible for Rene's bills at Jackson."
Help Me Howard contacted the hospital who gave us this statement: "When the patient came to the emergency room, he was treated and released with appropriate instructions for follow up care. He did not seek follow up care through the hospital."
Rene says that's just not true.
Howard Finkelstein: "I went back like three times, and they turned their backs on me."
Rene says he just wants to get healthy again.
Howard Finkelstein: "I have been going through hell since November, I can't get back on my feet. It's hard for me to get up from bed. Hard for me to bathe sometimes."
Patrick Fraser: "If you are suffering from what we all call an emergency situation, go to the nearest emergency room. They have to treat you."
Now if you can't afford a non-emergency procedure, Howard says patients who have problems with hospital service should complain to two places: the Agency for Health Care Administration which can help with solve disputes, and investigate complaints.
You should also file a complaint with the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organizations. They make sure hospitals are operating according to standards.
A problem draining you? Need help? Give us a call we're not doctors but we'll give you a prescription for a solution.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: