Kaiser HMO and the Quality of Its Doctors
Kaiser HMO is one of the largest west of the Mississippi. Depending on the plan, patrons receive medical care for a small $10-15 fee at the time (in addition to the cost to join a plan that easily runs hundreds of dollars). Generally, most members are happy but few have NO complaints about the overworked system.
However, in general, Kaiser is too conservative about treatment to save money. They promote this approach and patients taking care of their health by eating healthy and exercising. A family doctor will refuse treatment unless another doctor, a specialist, confirms treatment. Like in any organization, there are proactive doctors and overly conservative and some that are simply too busy to really care about Sarah, Kathy, John etc. To them, they are another blob, another whiner about trivial health issues and wasting their time.
That is our system. So, when my 14 yr. old daughter complained about pain in the stomach area little was done the first time. Change of diet was suggested. Weeks go by and the pain returns in the same spot on her right side near rib cage. After a series of questions, another appointment for an ultrasound was created. This is when they found out she had a few gallstones in the gallbladder. The family doctor then refer us to a head surgeon, Weeks and pain continues until we see him for a brief 10 minute meeting. His bedside manner was poor. He never looked us in the eye when talking, he said it was nothing serious, gallstones occur all the time and that is his expertise. The surgical procedure was a no brainer, in essence. He prescribed Vicodin for pain. Now, the soonest Kaiser could do the operation was over month away and my daughter was in and out of pain, missing school. The surgeon just told us, she'll just have to grin and bear it, but if it got REALLY bad, go to ER and he would do then.
For weeks, that is where it ended. She gradually got worse. Eyes were yellowish, in pain, no appetite. Up to this point, none of the doctors even ordered a blood draw to check her blood levels relating to gallstone complications. Finally, a nurse, who had seen the file, and who knew another surgeon at another Kaiser Hospital in a city 45 min. away, sent the file to her for review- electronically. Within a day, the surgeon personally called us up and told us to take in for a blood work up. When the results were there, the surgeon called us again and said the results were "off the charts". The gallstones were blocking the tube that bile travels through and told us to come down for an MRI. She was pissed that the surgeon in our city was so negligent. She was speechless and said if we waited another month until the surgery, it would be much too dangerous. She insisted that she will fit her in to do the surgery.
The MRI blew the surgeon away. My daughter's gallbladder was filled with 5 cm gallstones, they were like small balls and three were passed into the bile tube blocking it. This condition causes jaundice and pancreatitis. It was not routine as the first surgeon said blindly, without any MRI.
The surgery was done within two days of the other surgeon getting involved. The difference be doctors is night and day. The first surgeon, while an expert, was too busy to even order a blood test as routine, had he, he , too, might have reacted with urgency. Had the second surgeon not become involved, we might still be waiting and my daughter's condition becoming very serious because it was the blood draw results that REALLY showed of what was going on.
All I can say is what they said: "The squeaky wheel gets their attention". As far as I am concerned, the original surgeon should be reprimanded for negligence. The problem is, he is the Chief of Surgery at our more local Kaiser. There is no superior above him.