Gowanus Lounge: Serving Brooklyn

Slopers Continue Venting About Methodist Hospital ER Shitshow

November 22nd, 2008 · 8 Comments

There is a long and involved discussion going on among our dear and good friends at Park Slope Parents about the horrors at the emergency room at Methodist Hospital, although to be fair, a few people have reported positive experiences. (We thank some PSP members for their very encouraging emails yesterday, by the way, for our helping spread the word to the greater community.) In any case, we’re just going to go directly to the copy and paste, which is the best way to share the emails in which we’re drowning. In all fairness, some people say they have gotten prompt attention at Methodist, meaning that it’s probably a roll of the dice as to the day of the week, time of day and condition in which one arrives. In any case, we have several emails that we believe are worthy of public attention. We omit the identity of the writer, not to deprive them of credit for their writing, but to preserve their anonymity:

Even a ride to the emergency room in an ambulance does not guarantee medical attention at Methodist. My sitter suffered a bad fall on the playground 2 years ago,and was taken to Methodist by ambulance. And even though she was suffering from severe pains to the chest area, she still did not receive any care at all, and finally ended up hobbling out of the hospital after 4 hours of pain and suffering and still not being able to see a doctor. And this was even with their so called triage and fast track system in place. The only thing they are efficient about is making sure they collect all your insurance information and getting their paperwork in order – over and over again. I agree with some of the other posters that you are better off jumping in to a cab and seeking medical attention in Manhattan.

Here is one:

It actually happened that twice in the last ten years I dislocated my right shoulder and had to wait over two hours in the waiting room both times. (I don’t know if people know what a dislocated shoulder feels like but without hesitancy, I can compare it to my labor so imagine someone giving birth in the waiting room with that kind of screaming). Yay.

Here is another:

We had a mixed experience at Methodist ER. When my son fell at the park and needed stiches in his mouth…we took an ambulance to the ER. I do think this helped to get some attention at first but then the registration was hell and they woman doing it took her sweet time while my 2 year old was bleeding from the mouth and screaming “it hurts! it hurts!” I just ended up being super pushy and finally said to the woman at the info desk, something about how “look. my son has a hole in his face. he’s in pain. Can someone here do something or should I take a cab somewhere else?” Once we got into the room, things went well but they really did seem indifferent to suffering out front. I was so used to Children’s hospital in chicago, which was a phenomenal experience, so this lack of caring floored me. All that said, what can we do about this? Its unacceptable to me to allow a hospital to serve a community this way. Can our elected officials do anything to help?

And we will offer this final selection, which may contain some of the best advice, which is–go someplace else:

I’ve been advised by a close friend who is a seasoned medical professional in Brooklyn to jump in a cab and go to any Manhattan emergency room (St Vincent’s for example) rather than any Brooklyn emergency room. I know people who have been terribly misdiagnosed at Methodist and I’ve had a bad experience at LICH.

And, there’s today’s installment of Methodist Hospital ER Horror Stories.

(GL Note: To the handful of PSP members that have written suggesting we have nothing better to do than to “steal” content from the group and that such “stolen” material is that all GL consists of, we strongly and deeply believe that this is a perfect example of an issue of vital public importance that deserves to be circulated to the community at large, even if it is raised privately. We will continue to publish such items in the interest of informing the hundreds of thousands of people that read GL every month. We draw a very strict line between emails that come to our attention about, say, breast milk and constipated children, which are truly private, and those which constitute “news” about which the community should be aware.)

Tags: Park Slope

8 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Red Hook // Nov 22, 2008 at 2:03 pm

    GL posts a lot of great stuff, but sometimes goes off the insane-o-meter. This is probably the worst example of journalism I have seen GL post. There are a number of anecdotal complaints about one ER which becomes the headline: “Slopers Continue Venting About Methodist Hospital ER Shitshow”

    Methodist is no worse and no better than other city ER (I do not work for Methodist and am not a doctor). Someone writes:

    “It actually happened that twice in the last ten years I dislocated my right shoulder and had to wait over two hours in the waiting room both times.”

    Again – have you ever been to an ER before? Doctors are treating patients who have received critical injuries. You saw a doctor in two hours for a dislocated shoulder? That’s actually very fast.

    This is not a story about how shitty Methodist is. It’s a story about a group of entitled people in the Park Slope area who find that on their one or two trips to a city ER that people did not cater to them hand-and-foot.

    Cry us a river.

    Yes, waiting at Methodist sucks. So does waiting at any ER. As for the both ridiculous (and dangerous) suggestion for taking a cab to a Manhattan ER, you will not find your wait time to be any less. The city’s ERs are understaffed with overworked doctors who are doing the best they can.

  • 2 Jack // Nov 23, 2008 at 2:17 am

    “Red Hook” is correct. All NYC emergency rooms are just like what’s described in these complaints. It’s not just Methodist; it’s all NYC hospitals.

    And my heart goes out to anyone whose health has suffered, but there is one thing—and only one thing—that you can do to improve something like this: Simply have a healthy (and strong willed) family member of friend CONTINUALLY crawl up the ass of the staff.

    I spent about 10 years of my life dealing with my parents health issues and NYC’s hospital system and it really comes down to one thing: Be a jerk. Threaten to sue. And let them know someone is watching and will be a pain to them.

    Now there will always be some good eggs, but let them prove it to you.

    And please, don’t focus on one hospital.

    And if people want a real long term solution, advocate for improvements to the healthcare system. It’s sick honestly.

  • 3 anonymous // Nov 23, 2008 at 4:57 pm

    Jack, who is just one step from the Lord, hath inscribed in the holy writ:

    “Be a jerk. Threaten to sue. And let them know someone is watching and will be a pain to them.”

    I have worked in ERs. It goes like this: first we ask the jerks to have a seat and calm down, so we can treat the seriously ill patients without interference. Then, we call a “patient care advocate,” who is really a hospital administrator who documents, in writing, your jerky behavior and the fact that there is no “actionable” action going on. Finally, we call “security,” a fine group of too-dumb-to-be-real cops, who know enough to escort a disruptive family member from the premises.

    Want my advice? Don’t use an emergency room for a non-emergency. Have a reliable primary care doctor who will return your calls after-hours. If you really need to go to an ER, understand the concept of triage: the sickest patients get cared for first. Mr. Jones, with the dissecting aortic aneurysm is going to get the entire staff’s attention for three hours, while Ms. Entitled Park Slope resident, with benign positional vertigo, will wait. Want an advocate?
    Find out who the charge nurse is and speak politely to her/him during an apparent break in the action. Or, find out who the attending physician is and speak with him/her equally politely.

    Jeez, guys. This is really a simple issue.

  • 4 Jack // Nov 23, 2008 at 9:58 pm

    Dear Anonymous,

    “Want my advice? Don’t use an emergency room for a non-emergency.”

    Since you have no clue what’s up and are as arrogant as it comes, let me explain. I wasn’t escorting my elderly father to Coney Island Hospital because he had some “benign positional vertigo”. He suffered from a heart condition and was often in the middle of a cardiac episode. He was in his 60s at the time. The one time we did a walk-in because we lived a few blocks away, he was practically in visible cardiac arrested on a plastic chair the @#$% waiting room while “genius” compatriots of your sat and did nothing.

    And yes, security was called to calm me down. And when I pointed to my dad who survived the Holocaust was practically dying their waiting room they quickly went back behind the doors, got a gurney and pulled him inside.

    The hospital in question was Coney Island Hospital. We lived in Brighton Beach. And at the time I thought it was only them. Until I heard similar stories from others. Here’s a tip folks: Want shitty care for long term care? Head on over to Maimonides. A hospital that seems to take joy in billing for patients and shoving clipboards with forms in front of patients and sending out a “patient care advocate” to keep things calm while patients suffer.

    At that wonderful hellhole I saw my dad—who was dying and barely able to move—taken out of bed and dressed like a doll so hospital care execs could see a nice/pleasant picture during a walk through. My siblings and I found our father well dressed and in pain sitting in the chair hours later. His rest and comfort were compromised so the hospital could put on a good face.

    When my mother had psychiatric episode there, guess what happened? We were glad-handed while all these geniuses did was tie her down to a bed like an animal. TIED TO THE BED!

    And a family friend committed suicide after dealing with the stress of the crappy system at Maimonides where somehow YELLING AT HIM was par for the course. What did they yell at him about? Not taking out his $%@# clinic card fast enough.

    “Jeez, guys. This is really a simple issue.”

    Yes, it is. You’re an idiot who somehow handles patient care because there are not enough jobs flipping burgers at McDonalds to get you hired there.

    I’ll admit there are some people in emergency rooms who shouldn’t be there. But when you personally chastise ME you petty anonymous cog in the machine, you are @#$%ing with the wrong person. I saw the mouth of hell in dealing with NYC hospitals over the years. I know a lot more than you think I do. I’m no privileged white boy whining here.


    PS: I’ve saved the best for last dear anonymous morono. My dad also contracted HIV/AIDS in the 1980s from a blood transfusion at Maimonides during open heart surgery. So please, don’t ever pretend you don’t know about the utter incompetence of the NYC hospital system. The handful of times I’ve dealt with emergency rooms outside of NYC it’s been night-and-day. NYC emergency rooms are the worst.

    PPS: “Jack, who is just one step from the Lord, hath inscribed in the holy writ” Now how do you feel about saying this, jerk.

  • 5 Brenda from Flatbush // Nov 24, 2008 at 12:37 pm

    Jack, we have both firewalked. You witness to the truth: not just the incompetence, sloppiness and sloth, but the fundamental banality of evil that permits “caregivers” to inflict neglect, pain, and humiliation on the utterly helpless. I have more than once asked some slab-faced slow-moving slug, while my loved one writhed untended in agony (or was insulted or handled with deliberate roughness by said slug): “Tell me. Why did you ever, ever seek a job taking care of your fellow human beings?” No one has been honest enough to say, “Good benefits from 1199.”

  • 6 bri // Nov 24, 2008 at 4:03 pm

    I agree that many subjects that come up on Park Slope Parents are of vital community importance and SHOULD be blogged. It is still theft if you don’t ask to use the words of the writer here – it says so in the PSP guidelines. If you asked the writer if you could anonymously use their email here, great. If not, you should. My words were used here and then, because of you (or was it brownstoner?), in the NY Times during the last round of PS Stroller Gate at Union Hall. Not a VITAL issue, but one that was close to my heart at the time and I would not have minded having my name attached to my statements. At this point, I won’t write anything on Park Slope Parents unless I want it blogged, and I know others feel the same way. That means that the spirit and purpose of the listserv has been disrupted by bloggers.

    I say this as an avid reader and big fan of Gowanus Lounge. I am not boycotting you or trying to be a jerk. I just think the guidelines should be respected.

  • 7 bri // Nov 24, 2008 at 4:06 pm

    Oh, and this was mine, too:

  • 8 j c // Nov 27, 2008 at 11:47 am

    full disclosure:
    i am a physician working in NYC, though i do not work in an emergency department and haven’t since residency.

    i want to make a few points, but first i’d like to say that what i read above shows that both sides are making a lot of assumptions about the other that in the end leads to personal and vicious attacks that are circular and counterproductive. (not that i have any delusions that anything productive will come of a discussion on any blog post.)

    (1) as a resident i have actually told parents of patients to “be assertive” in the ED. not because i want to encourage disrespect of the staff, but rather to recognize that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and that ED staff are pulled in countless directions at any one time and are required to make rapid decisions and realign their priorities many times a minute. inevitably important things fall behind as more urgent issues come up, though IN GENERAL (again, not to assume perfection of anyone) truly emergent issues are dealt with promptly at any ER

    (2) the ER is a place of dramatic contrasts. a patient or family member, no matter what their condition, may see the staff as moving like molasses as the hour creeps by, while for the staff the time races by and they feel like they are rushing around like the proverbial headless chicken. the two parties are experiencing the same hour at the same ER very differently. i’ve encouraged BOTH sides to be empathic to the other. so to my advice above, i add “be patient”

    (3) the American healthcare nonsystem is irretreivably broken. unfortunately the issues dealt with at the ERs described above are the same everywhere, especially in any urban center. (that being said, just as people move for good schools, it’s not unreasonable to move for better healthcare if one feels it is hopelessly compromised in his or her area). as long as resources are allocated based on capitalist principles instead of on need, everyone will suffer and even die needlessly. please vote and voice your support for sweeping healthcare reform.

    (4) people truly do use the ER for nonemergent issues, which gums up the system for everyone. part of this is because of the healthcare nonsystem, but it also has to do with a cultural failure and ignorance on the part of physicians and patients. i have told countless people to call their doctor if such-and-such issues arise and more often than not i get the response: “I can do that? even if the office is closed?” primary care providers have the responsibility of informing their patients as to how to get medical advice before going to the ER. and we/patients have the responsibility to ask for that information.

    (5) i have been on the receiving end of some of the threats and epithets mentioned above, as have all providers. it pains me enormously when this happens because it implies that i’m willfully and maliciously inflicting harm while i feel i’m working to the bone to do the opposite. the natural human response is resentment and animus, and this does not make anyone work harder or better. Personally, I’m encouraged when I have a family “advocate” as I feel this person is on my side in improving the health of their loved one in a situation that is stressful for everyone involved, but when this person turns malicious it tends to make staff try to avoid the patient in question as much as possible which helps no one.

    I’m trying hard to avoid responding directly to points made above so as to stay out of the fray, and since I don’t know Jack, anonymous, or Brenda I can’t presume to know anything about their experiences or whether their responses are reasonable. I wouldn’t have responded at all except that I felt so personally attacked and hurt by what I read that, for my own sanity, I had to articulate my feelings. I, too, have seen the ugly underbelly of NYC and American medicine and have been just as reviled by it, but I have also seen some of the best of it.