Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Emergency Room Visit

Bill motioned to me from across the backyard with his left arm to come to him. I put down the rose bush that I was transplanting and walked towards him over the thick mat of grass. As I got closer to him I saw he was holding his right arm. I asked “What?” He said that the neighbor’s dog had bitten him. He removed his hand and I could see the dog’s teeth puncture marks and blood on Bill’s arm. He said he was near the fence that divides our acre of backyard from our neighbor’s backyard. Our neighbor had put the fence in to keep his dogs in his backyard. He said he was standing by the fence when the neighbor's black Lab lunged at him and caught him by his sweater and sank his teeth into Bill's arm. Both Bill and I are veterans and use the Veterans Medical Association Center in Wilmington for our health care. The VAMC is located 93 miles from us. Bill called the local VAMC outpatient clinic in Georgetown, and they advised him to go to the emergency room at the VAMC in Wilmington or the closest hospital. We decided not to go to the closest hospital because Bill would be liable for the full cost of his emergency room visit. On January 3rd I passed a kidney stone. I didn’t know what was happening at that time. I called the VAMC and they advised me to go to their emergency room in Wilmington. I did not go because I thought I was near death. I went to the Beebe Hospital emergency room. They identified that I was passing a kidney stone and treated my condition in an efficient manner. Two weeks latter I received a bill for almost $4,000. The VAMC advised me that I would be liable for that bill because I “chose” to go to that emergency room. Eventually, the VAMC did pay 70% of the costs after a three month review. Knowing what happened when I visited a local emergency room, we didn’t want to go through that ordeal again. Thus, we took off this morning for the Wilmington VAMC emergency room. We arrived in Wilmington at approximately 10:45 AM. Then we proceeded to wait until 6:20 PM until Bill was finally treated for his wounds. Apparently, Bill, with his dog bite, was low man on the totem pole for emergency room procedure. He said that other patients arrived after he did and were considered more at risk and were given preferential treatment because of the seriousness of their condition. Finally, Bill asked the nurse practitioner if he could sign a release form without being treated. He told her “I’ll just go home and die.” Finally, this got their attention. Thus, almost 8 hours after arriving at the emergency room he was treated. The nurse cleaned his would. He was given a tetanus shot, and a prescription for antibiotics. We were both exhausted. This is another example of the abysmal state of health care in this county today. The VA care is great once you get treated. However, there is a shortage of doctors and accessibility to the VA facilities. Today was torture.

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