Emergency care in crisis

Dear Editor:

I have a potentially chronic disease. I pay $1,000 per month for insurance to ensure I am protected. I went to the ER in Ellsworth on June 15 and waited in a crowded waiting room. Three hours in they inserted an IV line and took blood and urine, then informed us they had no nurses and therefore no beds. My choice was to sit and wait for an unknown amount of time, in pain, with others in the same boat, many of whom had arrived before me. I chose to go home knowing my doctor would work hard to get me a CT and an answer. Letting us know when we arrive that there’s no hope of admission should be included in a patient bill of rights. I was charged $599 for blood tests and a urine test. I was never seen by a doctor or even a PA. My insurance paid $38.46.

On July 20, 2022, a recurrence sent me to the Bangor EMMC. My doctor sent me and called ahead. At 4 p.m. the ER waiting room was full. I spent my entire 24 hours there in the waiting room. I had IV treatments. Vitals. For all intents and purposes, I was a patient. But I never had a bed (I did get a recliner about midnight). I observed nurses acting heroically throughout the night. They were abused by people with anger issues, mental illnesses, homelessness and people who were just so frightened and sick they could not behave in a reasonable manner. The nurses were inhumanely busy. I saw a PA three times. I saw the doctor once, when I was being sent home. Throughout the long and uncomfortable 24 hours, every professional I dealt with treated me with courtesy, but they were exhausted and overwhelmed. This is not how I want nurses to be treated. This is not how medical care should be delivered.

I know we are facing a crisis caused in part by COVID. Nursing homes have shut down so geriatrics looking for a room stay longer in hospitals, taking up valuable beds and nurses (a horrifically expensive solution). Nurses have left for jobs that contain less abuse. I am sure there are other problems, insurance reimbursements for one. But we need a solution. My child in Massachusetts said, ‘Mom, leave that state, you need to be where you can have better emergency health care options.’ I’m afraid he may be right, and I’m afraid others of my generation may soon come to that same conclusion without a concerted, public effort to right these wrongs.

Laurie Butler


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