Little Beds and Little Help at Jfk Hartwyck at Edison Estates
Posted Jan 31 2010 12:00am
Knee replacement, photo by fpjacquot
We speak here of health care and health care reform, most often in the larger, policy sense. This weekend I had occasion to witness the beast up close. My younger brother had his knee replaced earlier in the week at JFK Medical Center here in Edison, NJ. By all accounts the operation was a success; although he is only 45 years old (which I’m told is considered young for a knee replacement) he has had a history of knee problems initially ensuing from his having been struck by a car while working a number of years ago. After the surgery, his doctor asked him how he had even been walking– there was, he said, no cartilage left to speak of.
On Saturday at around 1:30 pm, as I set out to see him, I called to a) make sure he had in fact been transferred and was there; and, b) find out his room number. After three call transfers and three fairly frustrating conversations I was finally able to confirm that he was there; I also learned that he was on the third floor. I gave up on the room number.
To say the place is a bit run down is not to engage in hyperbole; to say that there was an absence of care is merely to mimic the US News Report on the Nursing Home and Rehab Center.
My brother is a big man– 6′ 3″ or 4″ tall, and having lost some weight, scales in at about 295lbs. Despite the fact that his chart says such, provisions were not made to accommodate him. He did not fit in the bed: his head struck against the headboard and his feet crushed against the footboard if he tried to lay straight. Presumably, with his knee having just been replaced, this matters even more than it would normally. There is a contraption that he was supposed to put his leg and knee in– it would not fit on the bed. Furthermore, the foam mattress that came with his too-short bed was so old and beat up that he sunk into the bed’s metal slats tossing and turning (though not laying straight) while trying to sleep. In doing so, he had actually been cut.
In addition, no one had thought to give him an elevated toilet seat; his knee precluded him from reaching a standard seat.
He had made these problems known to staff earlier, and was told that they would fix them. This did not happen.
After I arrived and reiterated these needs to various levels of staff, I was told of a number of different, but conflicting remedies and the schedules for such. They did not have a bed long enough but would remove the footboard so that his feet would hang off the bed??? until they could fasten an extender or buy or rent a bed to fit him– which could take either a few hours or a few days. I said I could live with a few hours, but that a few days was patently unacceptable. The contraption would have to wait.
He is 6′ 3″ or 4″ tall, he is not 7′ 2.” It is decidedly not a new facility. They have 280 beds. Surely, from time to time they get patients taller than 6′ 2″? They acted as though they never had.
The shoddy mattress was soon replaced, though, inexplicably, no one entered the room to assist my brother as he struggled to get out of the bed and hoist himself precariously onto the walker as the mattresses were exchanged. Throughout the four or so hours I was there, this absence of assistance was a recurring theme. Having been trained as a lawyer, this willingness on the part of staff to court, if not embrace, liability was, quite frankly, appalling. I assure you, somewhere there’s an in-house attorney prematurely gray.
As for the elevated toliet seat? I had to ask again, but urgently, as he had to go. The nursing assistant unable to find one elsewhere, ultimately snatched one from another patient’s room and hurried to clean it as my brother, the outcome uncertain, anxiously waited.
The truth is, they ultimately moved in response to my demands formulated in accord with my legal training. Otherwise, I imagine he’d still be lying there with a too-short bed, presumably covered in his own fecal matter as he vainly attempted to make his new knee bend and descend to an unprepared toliet.
In the end, they gave up on removing the footboard as they realized while taking it apart that it would actually disable the bed controls by doing so. When the rental bed came, they had no mattress to fit it but, tired of it all, we assented to pillows shoved in at the end. When the bed was set up, after the rental bed man told the nurse that she was going to want to go over the bed– which had different controls than the former bed– with my brother–and to make sure we set up the height of the bed to accommodate him–the nurse nodded her head and promptly walked directly out of the room. We managed without her.
I won’t bore you with more, but I will say that the attending doctor had briefly visited my brother earlier in the day and, without so much as asking him his relative pain level, apparently changed his pain prescription for the afternoon, but didn’t bother to actually tell my brother that she was doing so. Tentative about leaving the direct care of his surgeon, before he left the hospital my brother actually asked his surgeon if he would continue on this particular prescription that seemed to be working–the surgeon assured him that this prescription was “the law” and would remain in place wherever he went to combat the pain. Apparently, the rehab’s attending had not heard of the law and by the evening it became apparent that something was wrong. My brother, who is tough as nails and has worked a harsh blue collar job all his life, began to cry. The nurse informed us soon thereafter that his prescription had been changed. A lengthy explanation/argument with the nurses and phone call to the doctor filling in for the attending resulted in a reinstatement of “the law.”
It is also worth mentioning that although we were told by the nurses that standard protocol for incoming sub-acute was a physical therapy evaluation within at least, the very next day– that never happened. And although I was assured that although there must have been some form of communication failure which deprived him of his evaluation, he would be evaluated very first thing the next morning. That did not happen either. My brother was told this morning that “no physical therapy staff work on Sundays.” Obviously, he has received no physical therapy yet. At best, he will be evaluated for such come Monday morning– he got there on Friday. His knee and leg have further swollen. Insurance will only pay for so many days stay. It is also my understanding that the first few days of rehab are crucial to an effective recovery.
I routinely villify insurers (as they deserve it), but I can’t help but see at least one of their points here. My question is this: exactly what will this medical facility be charging the insurer for this weekend? Therapeutic Services? Rehab? He was warehoused– and poorly at that.