Where Do We Go When Hospitals Become Inhospitable?

Where Do We Go When Hospitals Become Inhospitable?

Have you seen 'Stu's Show' yet? I’ll do my best not to expose any spoilers in case you haven’t, but our latest documentary is a love story that also explores the substandard state of today’s medical environment and healthcare system as our hero, Stu Shostak, fights to keep his girlfriend, now wife, Jeanine, alive after she slips into a coma following a severe medical emergency. As we filmed with Stu over the last two years (coincidentally coinciding with the Pandemic) we have lived day after day in the realm of health advocacy, learning exactly what it takes to get a loved one the proper care they need when they are faced with a life-and-death health situation. –and unfortunately, many times it seems to take a lot of kicking and screaming.

We would all like to think that when we are sick or hurt that the medical system will be in our corner at all times while we are hospitalized or undergoing treatment, but sadly, this is not the case. Between Stu’s experience and many of his friends that we interviewed, we listened to horror story after horror story about people experiencing neglect and inconsiderate treatment by hospitals, doctors, staff and the insurance companies when they were simply trying to get their loved one well. The two themes that were echoed the most from these stories were the understaffing of medical facilities, and of course, money.

The rising cost of health-care is something that should concern everyone. Year after year people are footing higher bills for treatment and higher insurance premiums while the level of care they receive is not up to par with the prices they are paying. We must ask why? Why are prices getting higher and higher? Is it legitimate? Or is it something else? In the course of the documentary, Stu relives a fiery conversation that took place with a caseworker when Jeanine was being discharged from the hospital because her insurance company was refusing to pay for her needs. As he put it, they were treating her like an expendable “piece of meat.” In the midst of demanding an explanation, the caseworker went on to tell him that he was interfering with a system that purposefully overcharges for patient care knowing that insurance companies will often refuse to pay out. The patient is discharged, and as these exorbitant bills go unpaid, turning into bad debt, they can then be written off as a loss by the hospitals on their yearly taxes. "It's an endless circle my friend," said the caseworker.
 
This was mind-boggling to me as a human being, and yet it made so much sense as a business strategy. If this is indeed the case this would mean that the modern medical system is being run by leaders who are not focused on helping people, but are instead running a cut and dry “business” where the chief concern is their bottom line. How did we get here, and why are more people not openly talking about this? Why are medical industry workers not continually blowing the whistle on this inhumane profiteering tactic? Or do they, and then find themselves shunned and dismissed? Is this also contributing to the growing problem of understaffing?

"We are over-patient'd, and under-staffed." This is the phrase that Stu heard over and over when he was being given excuses as to why Jeanine was not receiving the proper care she deserved. Understaffing seems to be a plague that is affecting nearly every type of medical facility that is caring for hospitalized patients, including nursing homes and convalescent care centers. It's easy to see the extreme unfairness that is placed on hospital staff when there are not enough hands on deck. I feel most people who go into the medical care industry have sincerely held intentions of wanting to help and be of service to others who are in need, but as staffers, social workers, nurses and doctors are continually overworked and overstressed, naturally the level of care and compassion they show to patients and patient’s families can begin to dwindle to unsympathetic and unempathetic states. This is when the mindset of "I'm doing what I have to do, collecting my paycheck and going home," sets in. –and when this happens, we all lose. –both workers, patients and the human race in general.

When we endure unempathetic treatment from an individual or group (especially when we are in states of fear for our own or our loved one’s survival) we can often become unempathetic to that person in return, which creates a cycle that can be referred to as victim-victimizer behavior. This also leads to enemy thought-patterning where we no longer see ourselves as “on the same team,” and we begin treating the person who we are ultimately relying on for help as if they are our adversary. As this “us vs. them” mindset takes shape, hostility and anger quickly breeds on both sides, and begins touching and affecting every facet of our lives. Our negative emotions, fears and frustrations routinely spill over to other interactions as we go about our day, and these high-levels of stress are felt by and sometimes taken out on the others around us such as our children, families, friends, and our community. KABOOM! What starts out as a bad interaction stemming from understaffing quickly snowballs into something that goes on to negatively affect familial and societal well-being as a whole. –and as this compounds and occurs over and over in treatment centers across the globe, negativity and Dark energy gains a tighter grip on more and more individuals and medical workers, which in turn contributes to their own ill-health, dis-ease and eventual hospitalization too. Can you see the never-ending cycle that is being created?

This problem began long before we were hit with the pandemic, so why has this been allowed to happen, and not foreseen in time to be remedied? Why aren’t we able to properly staff one of the most important institutions of public necessity? Is it solely because of a lack of qualified health care workers, a shortage of incoming medical students, and a portion of current workers retiring or leaving due to burn-out? With the amount of medical training programs out there, there must be some viable plan of action that could be put into place to immediately help alleviate the burden on current staff, while also training and enticing more young people to enter the medical field.  I can think of a handful of options off the top of my non-medically trained head, so why do healthcare leaders seem to be caught in the dark, and moving so slowly? Is it an administrative or internal issue? Is it bureaucracy? Is it politics? With this going on for as long as it has been, it gets to the point that you naturally begin to wonder if this again all goes back to money, and the propagation of an industry that profits more from our stress, sickness and death than it does from true health. Is this all part of a sophisticated formula that stealthily creates a perfect storm?

There are many tough questions that we must all have the courage to ask in order to ever be able to usher in much needed change. We must be willing to take a step back, with our emotions intact, in order to recognize where we may have had blind spots in the past so that we can piece together the puzzle, and begin to see the bigger picture. –and we can not continue to be pacified with being told “that’s just the way things are” any longer. No one should have to fight the kind of fight that Stu and millions of others are enduring in an effort to get there loved one decent levels of care. No one should be reduced to feeling like the only way they can get results is to 
become a "raging maniac." and no medical worker should be pushed so far, and spread so thin that they lose their desire to help others.  We must demand that a sense of humanity be brought back into healthcare, and that requires the medical system to begin valuing patients and their employees over profit.

Until unsavory questions like these are answered and big changes can be implemented, we need to also remember and strive to be more compassionate and patient with each other, especially when we are in stressful situations. My biggest hope for ‘Stu’s Show’ is that it will go on to act as a mirror, and speak to how important kindness and empathy are to the human experience, especially in environments where healing is suppose to be taking place. If you have a loved one in the hospital, please try to be as respectful as possible to the over-burdened medical workers who are also enduring stress within their personal lives, and likely pulling a double shift. –and if you are that worker, remember that the patient’s family member who may come across as irrational and pushy is simply afraid, and acting out of love for their person the best they know how. In all interactions, kindness and respect must start with us. If we are able to stop fighting against each other, we can and will bring about meaningful change, but we can only do it together.
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I believe the puzzle pieces of Truth are more easily revealed when we are able to respectfully share our knowledge and genuine experiences with each other, even when we may or may not completely agree. What do you think?  What experience and knowledge can you share on this subject?
 

-Mallory

If you haven't seen Stu's Show yet, watch it now HERE! 

 

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