Some of them come because they have nowhere else to go on a cold winter’s night and a warm bed and meal is guaranteed. Some simply desire human interaction and attention that they don’t receive in the outside world. Some have taken the last lethal hit of their drug of choice and although they feel their life ebbing away, they can take comfort in the fact that they won’t die alone, and some are there because they truly are having a medical emergency.
I recently spent 16+ hours in the intensive care unit at a local Jacksonville hospital and during that time it became clear to me why healthcare in this country is so dysfunctional. Why 16 hours? Well, it wasn’t because my life was hanging in the balance and I needed constant monitoring, it was because there were no rooms available in the hospital. How can this be, you ask? Quite simply, because the hospital doubles as a hotel for the majority of its patients. Sad, but true!
I spoke with many of the staff that night, questioning the reason behind their efforts; is it their love of medicine or love of humanity that keeps them coming back day after day. The answers varied, but I got the scoop on how the whole thing operates and let me tell you, it was quite and eye-opening experience.
First of all, if a person checks themselves into the emergency room, whether they show up every day of the week or once a month, the law requires that they be seen. If this person has no obvious illness that can be easily diagnosed and are insistent of a real medial problem then the testing begins. This can take hours or it can take days.
They can complain of experiencing pain, whether it is real or imaginary and be given medication to elevate that said pain. If, however, they show up without checking themselves in, then they can be asked to leave the premises.
Miss Olive, an elderly woman who was very vocal in her demands and profanity, checks herself in at least 5 times a week. Obviously mentally imbalanced, but with no physical ailment that needs immediate attention, she goes through the process and makes enough noise so that eventually she is given something to calm her nerves and once stabilized she is released.
The ambulance’s in the area double as a taxi service with a one-way paid ticket straight to the ER. One man had someone else call 911 because he was acting strange. The paramedics found nothing out of the norm, but as soon as he was taken off the stretcher, situated in the bed and the doctor came over to ask what was wrong, he hurt all over! The paramedics just shook their heads and left.
It’s no wonder American’s can’t afford healthcare on their own, and the sad thing is that the taxpayers are footing the bill for the medical treatment of these abusers…because it’s the LAW! I wish I had the money that was wasted that night in the ER, as I can only imagine what it amounted to.
Mind you, these are just a few instances I’ve mentioned and for 16 hours I watched as this played out, over and over…a different scenario each time, but each effectively creative.