Word to The Wise

Word to The Wise

“Treatment Denied!”
Gregory V. Boulware

A 60 year old “Registered Nurse” walked into a Philadelphia Community Health Center seeking help. The pubic clinic was supposed to open at 7:30 A.M. The staff inside did not open its doors until 7:50 A.M. The crowd of about twenty-five people began arriving at or before 7 A.M. The old and the young lined up with no place to sit there weary, sick, and aching bodies. A pole alongside the building was the only comfort zone. The people were made up of a multi-racial community. Some where able to walk while others walked with canes or where in wheel-chairs. The woman (once inside), who lined the patients along an inside wall, treated the people like they were illiterates. She spoke like that of a ‘Master Drill Sergeant.’
“All right, now listen up closely! I don’t want to repeat myself! All those of you who are here for the first time…line up over here! All of you who have received treatment before – that means if you’ve been here before, as I’m sure that many of you have…line up over there and have all of your paperwork ready! Does any one have any questions before I walk away? Good, now let’s get to it! Yo lady, I said over there, didn’t you hear me?”

Doesn’t this just make you angry?

Some of the old folk weren’t able to hear, move, contemplate, or suffered some other debilitating ailment that prevented them from adhering to the rigorous et al instructions. The nurse seeking help for severe arthritic pain and swelling depended on a cane to assist in her limited mobility. She spent several hours in the mix of ailing individuals who were, like her, seeking medical assistance. Every emergency telephone number that was contacted suggested…insisted that she seek emergency medical assistance and guidance via the Philadelphia Community Health Center. I watched as many of the individuals who were waiting on line since before 7 A.M. depart, nearly as soon as they were briefly interviewed. They all waited in the heat for an hour or more only to be told that you had to seek assistance elsewhere or we cannot provide assistance to you. Some folks who appeared to be homeless, for some unbeknownst reason, where not turned away for lack of treatment. The help-seeking nurse was told they couldn’t help her with her painful knees of severe headache. They gave her a list of other community health centers and sent her on her way.

Prior to this health treatment sojourn, the 60 year old nurse did attempt to capitalize on the new healthcare programs. Once inquiring online, the telephone jumped off the holder. The quoted and listed premiums were priced so far out of reach, one would need a six figure salary in order to affordably qualify for coverage. The 40 year veteran registered nurse; for 15 years, worked part-time as a nursing assistant instructor for a prominent healthcare workers union, is not able to afford the healthcare she has provided to thousands upon thousands of patients at many hospitals and nursing centers throughout the Philadelphia area. This professional, proficient, and highly knowledgeable registered nurse served in this profession until her knees have virtually disintegrated. Standing, let alone walking has become an unbearable to nearly impossible task. However, she has managed to attend her students throughout this ailment that has plagued her for many years.

Doesn’t this just make you angry?

The schedule for nursing assistance training classes is sporadic, thus allowing for breaks or separation in employment status. Not being able to qualify for general medical assistance or disadvantaged enough to take advantage of government healthcare programs, is like being “between a rock and a hard place.” What’s a person to do when you make to much to qualify for the help they say you can afford while the reception of unemployment benefits say otherwise?

Help was sought at the nearest hospital as well. The emergency room staff were pleasant enough. The medical staff weren’t to quick to see patients. It appeared that this nurse would finally receive the deeply needed health care attention after her blood pressure was taken. It was extremely high…high enough to produce a stroke. The Med Students practiced their bed-side manner on a woman who had been in the business before they were born. She didn’t tell them she was a nurse. The only one that knew was the intake clerk. They simply patronized another patient seeking care without a chance in hell of receiving treatment. They would not send the poor woman to the x-ray department because she couldn’t pay for it. They wouldn’t treat the high-blood pressure symptoms because, as the excuse went, its only been one day. This reporter recalls having a headache for more than three days. I made an attempt to ignore the pain, but it just wouldn’t stop. The fifth day at ‘Chestnut Hill Hospital,’ my pressure was taken and treatment was ordered immediately. I was right at the cusp of having a stroke. I didn’t have health insurance (at that time) either…and I was not turned away because the high pressure reading was only detected for just one day! They (and my wife) saved my life!

So how is it that the medical staff at ‘Jeanes’ Hospital’ can, in earnest, deny a needy patient assistance? Let alone, a colleague?

Advisors have suggested applying to Social Security. By the time that process is processed, a body could become quite dusty in the wait. And that includes the possibility or probability of “No You Don’t Qualify!”

I think, in some sort of conscience clearing, they provided a knee immobilizer to hopefully help another human being who happens to be a colleague…maybe.

Doesn’t this just make you angry?

If it doesn’t, you’re probably a very rich or financially well-off individual without a sense of what it is to be poor; or working class poor and have never had to live from paycheck to paycheck; nor have you ever had to wonder what its like to wonder if you’ll be able to feed your kids – if you’ll be able to care for yourself once you’ve become old.

Meanwhile, as the bones crumble further, and the popping of over-the-counter-headache cure-all’s, healthcare patients who were health care providers are continually (like everyone else without coverage) kicked to the curb with a parting song of “don’t come back unless you have some type of health coverage.”

Is this how we want to treat our healthcare professionals…the people who have helped and saved us over and over again? I can’t help but wonder how many of you remember how our troops were and are treated upon there arrival home – i.e., our ‘Viet Nam Vets?’

What would you do if or when this happens to you – “Treatment Denied?”

Til Next Time…



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