A Tale of a Hospital "Visit"

You should be so unlucky :-((

My wife Betty went to the Washington Hospital, Fremont, a local tax supported facility, for four days. We had so many misadventures that I'm going to tell our tale of woe.

Our dentist, Dr Stewart, ran for, and was elected as, trustee of Washington Hospital. He is a good old boy. Part of the reason I am recording the tale is to amuse him. ;-))
It is too much to imagine that a mere trustee can influence a large institution.

When my time comes, I want to die in my own bed -
screw those medical screw ups -

Added Jan 16, 2014 - Study: Large Variation in Cost of Giving Birth at Calif. Hospitals
from http://www.californiahealthline.org/articles/2014/1/16/study-large-variation-in-cost-of-giving-birth-at-calif-hospitals

The study found that charges in California for:
- Vaginal delivery without complications ranged from $3,296 to $37,227; and
- Cesarean-section births without complications ranged from $8,312 to $70,908 ("State of Health," KQED, 1/16).

Anne McLeod, senior vice president of health policy for the California Hospital Association, said the study has a "major flaw" because it used prices before rates were negotiated between hospitals and insurers.

Why screw the people who would rather not pay the insurance salesperson's commissions and other insurance overhead and profits??

Added Oct 9,2008 - We just heard of the movie "Life for Sale" a movie describing a hospital using discrediting as a method of keeping complaining doctors in line, apparently using Washington Hospital as an example. Our story below is of gross uncaring incompetence.

Hot Flash - a local theater, Century Capitol 16, was threatened with a lawsuit by Washington Hospital, and decided not to show the film - "Life for Sale" - good thing we checked before going tonight -


The seeming exorbitant billing is late in our story below.
Update, in the spring of 2008, Betty was feeling bad, a change of hormone prescription, and went (again) to the Washington Hospital Emergency Room - in four hours they did an EKG and an IV, then sent her home - walking, in hospital slippers, at 2 AM, billing $4,600. For example, they are billing $580 for the use of a $6,000 EKG machine, not including 15 x mark-up for supplies, and plenty for application, and interpretation - just the use of the machine. We are fighting this silly billing this time.
Like why not bill us $46,000? or thinking big, why not $460,000? Seems to make as much sense to me.
- We finally settled for about 40% of the billing - I got tired of fighting the blood suckers. We are now using other medical facilities.
Image from the August 30, 2009 Argus - The Washington Hospital administrator, Nancy Farber, apparently was paid $876,831 last year, and she can't even read the teleprompter.
On the Washington Hospital TV, during board meetings, she reads statements in a mumbling unsure voice. Like reading a script someone else has written.
Note that 3 more Washington Hospital employees are making in the top ten of this multi-county government salary survey. (expanded image is 106 KBytes)

Update - Oct 14, 2011
Betty had about the same symptoms again - increasing pain in lower abdomen.
After a day we went to a local urgent care medical facility. We saw a doctor right away. Doctor pokes about and listens - granted its a tough call. We mention that Betty had been treated for diverticulitis a few years ago. You could see the Dr. get less tense - and figure it is probably the same thing again.

Dr. prescribes two medicines, and says firmly "If pain is worse tomorrow, come back !!. And if pain isn't better day after tomorrow, come back !!. In any case, keep taking the medicine until it is gone."
We pay $64 for the visit, and about $30 for the pills. (Total is about 1/2 a single IV at Washington Hospital.)

The pain got better slowly, completely gone in 4 days :-))
No fuss, no lost records, no patient ID screw up, no IVs, ... :-))
Motto: - avoid Fremont's Washington Hospital -

One Tuesday morning in June 2003

Wednesday morning - Thursday morning Friday Morning Saturday
We leave the "hospital"
- Betty feels much better
- and we have survived the hospital staff.

Ya know what - the high school kids working at the local veterinarian's office seem more capable and caring than the nurses we saw at Third Floor, West Wing of the Washington hospital. - And the nurses in the Emergency Room didn't shine much either - .

What is the score?
Minus side

  1. Emergency Room - long delay (three hours) after diagnosis and prescription before treatment started (Betty's records got lost and they didn't realize it until I bugged them a lot)
  2. West Wing - not being interested in arrival of new patient
  3. West Wing - have to fill out the same info into forms already filled out in emergency room (it is the same hospital? or is it? see billing below)
  4. West Wing - replacing failed ID band with wrong patient name and age, OK, they got the sex correct -
    OK, OK, You're correct - same chance as a coin flip -
  5. West Wing - fed standard food to patient on liquid diet -
  6. West Wing - lost and totally screwed up the IV battle, then gave up and went home leaving the antibiotic unadministered.
  7. General - it seems the whole IV business (in this case) was based on high billing incentive rather medical need. (In the time delay of getting the IV installed, oral antibiotic would have been completely absorbed anyway.)
Plus side
  1. Patient survived in spite of the above
  2. Hospital got lots of cash flow


The hospital bill(s) totaled $14 thousand for 4 days stay. (They use three different billing centers - maybe to confuse themselves as well as patients and insurance companies.)

I figured that the CAT scan would be a big part of that, but the CAT scan was only $2 thousand for the half hour.

But I did figure why the hospital loves IVs :-))

On the other side, hospitals in California have to take everyone whether they can pay or not - maybe this krazy billing is just a socialized medicine tax and should be acknowledged as such? Stanford Hospital, across the bay, gets caught about every ten years double or triple billing - bill the patients, and the state, and the feds, and who ever. Each time they say they will review their practices ;-))
Maybe this is the reality of the hospital business?

If insurance had not paid for Betty's hospital stay, Washington Hospital would have had to take me to court to get paid! That way I could have broadcast what a high priced, low service place it is! Talk about "your day in court" - I bet we would have settled out of court for a good deal less to save Washington Hospital from getting a public black eye.

- just dreaming of course -

Ya know - after re-reading the above tale, if a hospital treats me like that, and if I am conscious and mobile, the hospital might have to call 911 - They might have an insanely "mad" old man on their hands

- I'm old and don't have a salary or reputation to protect
- Why the hell not give it a go? ;-)) - yell, scream, throw stuff, ...
- On the Third Floor of the West Wing of Washington Hospital,
they might not even notice :-|
- probably have to pee on a nurse to get attention.

On the other side of the coin, our next door neighbors at the time were a cop and his wife, an obstetrical nurse at that very hospital. My neighbor the nurse was the very model of nurse of the year, caring, cool under fire, observant, (attractive), seemingly highly medically informed, ... , could move quickly carefully in touchy situations, just about every possible positive adjective. A wonderful person, you would trust her with your wallet and life.

(I didn't have the heart to tell them the above sorry tale. They moved to another area shortly after the above misadventures.)


Ed Thelen

Another Epilog - Friends and e-mailers who have read the above, report similar things at their local hospitals.

Maybe I'm sensitized to hospital failings. One of my father's sisters, Rose, died in a hospital (in 1934 I am told) due to some medical screw up with a "minor" operation. Uncle Will, a brother of my father, was doctor in that hospital at the time and was in a position to know.