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The NSPA Blog

Money, Ethics, and Healthcare

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Posted on January 13th, 2016 by Teri Dreher, under Inspiring Stories, Patient Advocacy

I heard a story from a friend this week that made me cringe. A woman came to me with a plea to help her son. He had previously been admitted to a hospital with a kidney stone that was causing severe pain. The urologist had placed a stent into the man’s kidney and bladder to allow the stone to pass. Since the stent was so uncomfortable, the young man had been unable to return to his job as a laborer. Having no insurance, he applied for Medicaid at the hospital but was told it would be several weeks or months before he would be approved.

When it was time to have the stent removed, he called the surgeon’s office to set up the appointment for the stent removal but was told that, unless he could come up with $1000 cash, he would not be seen and the stent would not be removed. The patient had submitted proof that he was doing all that he could to get covered by Medicaid. Unfortunately, Medicaid now reimburses physicians at such low rates that many practitioners refuse to accept Medicaid patients.

The paradox is that this unfortunate young man, unable to work due to the pain from the stent yet not able to have the stent removed without cash in hand, would have been forced to go to an emergency room and accrue another large hospital bill for pain control and to force someone’s hand to remove the stent. These are some of the harsh realities facing modern healthcare: there are still people falling through the cracks in our healthcare system.

My heart broke for this young man. Even though he could ill-afford a private advocate, we decided to take his case on a pro bono basis. It was simply unethical to allow this patient to stay in pain because he had no money. Someone needed to stand up and help, regardless of his financial status.

Fortunately, this situation has a happy ending. When we intervened as this young man’s private patient advocate, the surgeon’s office was very accomodating in scheduling the stent removal. The young man was happy to have his story shared in the hopes of educating and inspiring others.

As health care professionals, we all take an oath to follow a code of ethics, and ethically there are times and circumstances where each of us just has to stand up and “do the right thing” without regard for financial compensation.

With over 36 years of clinical experience in Critical Care nursing, home based health care and expertise as a cardiovascular nurse clinician, Teri is well acquainted with the complexities of the modern healthcare system. She has served as a nursing leader, mentor, educator, and consistent patient advocate throughout her career in some of the best hospitals across the country. Her passion to keep the patient at the center of the model of nursing care led her to incorporate NShore Patient Advocates, LLC in 2011, serving clients throughout the northern suburbs of Chicago.

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