Kaiser Needs to Get Its Priorities Straight

The average internal medicine doctor gets paid $155,530 a year. ER doctors make $215,000 a year, and a general surgery doctor banks $255,438 within a 12-month span. With this kind of moneymaking, I’d assume doctors would strive to be amazing at their jobs. Apparently not at Kaiser, a company that rakes in approximately $1.3 billion a year, has 14,600 physicians on its payroll and is the largest managed health care organization in the United States.

I would expect to get great healthcare from a company as big as Kaiser, especially since my family spends almost $10,000 a year for membership. Instead, we get misdiagnoses and $100 charges at doctor visits. This is happening far too often for a company whose stated goal is to help the sick.

Just a couple of weeks ago my father had a bad infection in his toe, so he decided to go into urgent care because it takes weeks to get an appointment from his regular physician. After three hours of sitting in the waiting room, a doctor finally saw him.

Now, I didn’t go to four years of medical school, so I am not an expert. However, I am pretty sure when you need a sample to run tests on an infection, a doctor must physically look at the infection, swab it with something and send it to the lab. This doctor decided that this was not necessary and did not have my dad take off his bandage. He swabbed the wrong toe, error number one. So maybe he was distracted or busy; I can forgive this mistake. However, this was just the start of a new nightmare Kaiser brought onto my family. My dad was expecting to hear back from the doctor; five days passed and no phone call.

On the fifth day, my father asked me to pick him up from work; he was very weak, had a fever and could barely walk for the pain in his toe had started to shoot up his leg. I took him straight to the emergency room where, after another three hours (kids with sprained ankles coming in after us were seen before my father), the ER doctor asked him why he never picked up the medicine the previous doctor prescribed to him. The medicine would have healed up the infection and my father would have been fine.

I explained to the ER doctor no one had called us regarding the previous visit. The doctor thought this would be a good time to inform me that my father’s infection had traveled from his toe, up his leg and into his heart, and that if I hadn’t brought him in, he may have died. Are you kidding me, Kaiser? Because one doctor decided not to pick up the phone, my father could have died. This is your job, and it’s not one to be lax about.

I was furious. My father ended up going in and out of the hospital for a week for something that should have been healed in a couple of days. This isn’t the first time one of my family members almost died at the hands of a Kaiser doctor.

When I was 11, my mother was diagnosed with Addison’s disease, a disease weakening her immune and reproductive system to the point that she could die from a common cold. Her doctor had discovered it when she became ill with strep throat, which caused her to be placed in the hospital for what was supposed to be about a week and a half.

The day she was supposed to get out a doctor gave her medicine he thought was for her blood pressure. The medicine turned out to be prednisone, a synthetic corticosteroid drug that is particularly effective as an immunosuppressant drug, a pill that would help my mother in her condition if she hadn’t been extremely allergic to it. She has known about her heavy allergy to the drug and explained to the doctor the first day she was in the hospital. Giving a patient a medicine that he or she can have a serious allergic reaction to is bad. Giving a patient a two-week dose of said medicine within one hour, causing her to go into a state of psychosis is worse. My mother stayed in the hospital another month because the medicine had destroyed what little was left of her reproductive system, and during the first week of her extended stay, she had no idea she had a daughter. Thanks a lot, Kaiser.

This isn’t just my sob story; my examples are two out of many. The Huffington Post reported that Heather Galeotti, a 22-year-old, was in a coma from being hit by a car. Kaiser was supposedly covering her from her father’s work, much like many college students. After being in a five-month coma, Kaiser wrote Galeotti’s family a letter stating it would not cover the 22-year-old and would be billing her more than $4 million in medical bills.

Ten months later, California insurance regulators ordered Kaiser to cover Galeotti’s care, saying that Kaiser had no basis for denying payment “other than to achieve a significant financial windfall” at the expense of her family.

Kaiser has always been known as a “money-grubber” but now it’s hitting home. Kaiser Permanente Santa Rosa was the only hospital in Sonoma County to receive three one-star below average ratings in the Health Quality Coalition annual report cards. The ratings are based on a five-star rating in different hospital areas. Kaiser received a “one” for acute stroke mortality, birth trauma for infants and post-operative hip fractures.

Maybe if Kaiser employees would spend less time worrying about the dent they received in their new Porsche and more time trying to help people, i.e. do their job, then we would have fewer incidents of wrongful death .

To read more troubling stories like the ones mentioned above, go to www.kaiserthrive.org or to see the full HQC report, go to myhealthfinder.com.