In which I pit Cook County Hospital

Cook County Hospital (now known as Stroger) in Chicago is the hospital that ER is supposed to be depicting.

So, my son tells me he thinks he has food poisoning, as he’s been on the toilet every 15 minutes for three days. I tell him he should think about seeing a doctor BEFORE HE FUCKING DIES, and since he has no insurance, his only choice is to go to the County hospital for care.

Now, I know they’re busy…on account of they cater to folks like my kid who don’t have insurance but need health care. I expected Der Kid to have to wait a while to be treated.

But FIFTEEN FUCKING HOURS IN THE WAITING ROOM??? That’s right. He went in at 5:00 pm yesterday and they finally took him into a treatment room at 8:00 am this morning. The phone just rang, and it has been 23 hours and he’s finally home. Diagnosis: Infection of the intestinal tract.

I’m glad it’s nothing serious. But Kee-rist! There’s got to be a better way to herd the masses through there. I’m sure there were people who were shot, burned, stabbed, OD’d, beaten, run over, and bitch-slapped. But shouldn’t they have something along the lines of an Express Lane or something? You know, 10 wounds or less? They’d clear people out more quickly, there’d be less stress, and less germ-passing amongst the patients.

I’m not such a good ranter, but believe me…I’m pretty darned annoyed!

I once waited in a Kaiser ER for 8 hours to be seen for the severe rash that had inexplicably and rapidly broken out over 75% of my body…and I HAVE insurance! I was told that I had the least life-threatening case of all the people that had been there when I arrived, AND all the people that arrived after me, so I had to wait.

Next time, tell your son to say that he’s experiencing chest pains. Wish I knew that before my episode! :rolleyes:

Was going to an “immediate care” type clinic not an option? These are like ER’s in that they take people on an as-needed basis, but unlike ER’s in that they aren’t intended for life threatening cases. It would likely be cheaper then an ER visit too, if he has to pay for it…

Yamirskoonier, a quick look on Kaiser’s site reveals that they call this “urgent care” and that they have many such facilities, as well as a help-line to determine if you should go to urgent care or an ER (although for all I know, that’s what you did!).

Metacom, I did indeed call ahead and it was determined that I needed to be seen ASAP, as I had had a penicillin shot 48 hours prior and they were worried it might be some kind of weird delayed allergic reaction.

But 8 FUCKING HOURS in a waiting room that was only half-full to begin with? :smack:

A word on “Urgent Care” vs. “ER” - my closest Kaiser facility’s Urgent Care is also the ER. Had I felt like I were really truly dying, I might have gone to a clinic that would see me immediately; but then again, Kaiser would have seen me sooner as well. Unfortunately, my rash was only really itchy. Boy, did that oatmeal bath feel goooood when I finally got home!

Well if it’s been three days and you are still walking, then it probably isn’t very urgent. Emergency rooms really arn’t designed to deal with cases like that, as its usually expected you will go to the family doctor.

And if you’re unable to afford a family doctor, you should…?

…go to the free emergency room expecting to wait 10+ hours.

Bah, it’s better than not getting healthcare at all. I know firsthand how phucked Stroger is, but after the first day of the shits, i’d gotten myself some immodium, and gotten on with my life until I could get to the clinic.

That’s the problem with community medicine, it’s hard to break even, much less be profitable, which, admittedly, isn’t Strogers aim, but, to lose money is harder still, you can’t operate at a loss for long. Moreover, many operations aren’t fully compensated by the insurance and medicare.

Many of the for profit hospitals have a fast track system anyway, and if they accept public money and operate an ER, they HAVE to take patients.

I have no doubt that the long wait is extremely distressing, and that the whole health-care system is a bit fucked,


As far as i know, these hospitals and emergency rooms don’t establish the order in which patients are seen based on the mere whim of the medical staff, or based on a reading of tarot cards or crystal balls. They determine the order based on a professional assessment of who is in the greatest need. Lying about your condition simply to jump the queue might lead to an incorrect diagnosis. It might also mean that someone who needs care more urgently has to wait longer, and is thus placed in greater danger.

I had my own experience with the Cook Co. Hospital ER last fall, because my insurance hadn’t kicked in at my job yet. I went to a doctor, who told me to get to the ER pronto. By the time I got there, I had a 105-degree temp and passed out while they were taking my blood pressure. And I still spent about seven hours lying in the ER before anyone could see me.

But I’d estimate there were well over a hundred people waiting when I got there. I only got in quickly because I keeled over on the nurse/technician/whatever-she-was.

(This also happened to be the day of that fire in some city building in Chicago that resulted in severely burned people and several deaths, many of which came through the Cook County ER. I saw a charred dead person wheeled past me. :frowning: )

After three days in that hospital, I can readily say it was the crappiest place I’ve ever seen. I can also say I’m thankful that it’s there for folks who don’t have insurance. Inconvenient, yes. Life-saving, yes. So I’d just suck up the PITA wait for the free emergency healthcare.

Yeah, but if you’re an adult with any risk factors at all and anything but a stone-cold normal EKG (and maybe even then), then they’re going to want to admit you to the hospital for serial enzymes and maybe a stress test, so it will add considerable time to the end of your visit.

Of course, you could leave AMA (against medical advice), but most insurers won’t pay a cent on an ER visit or hospital stay where you left AMA.

(I should say right now that I work in a hospital in Chicago that is not Cook County - oh, I’m sorry, John H. Stroger, Jr. Hospital of Cook County, named after the current county board president.)

A coworker of mine told me about when her boyfriend’s mother had to go there a couple months ago. She’d fallen down some stairs and done some serious damage to one of her knees, among other things forcing the kneecap out of place. She went to the ER around 8 or 9 pm, was finally preliminarly seen by a nurse around midnight or so, and when she asked what was up around 3 or 4 am (she hadn’t wanted to be a bother because she saw the nurses were busy), was told that she had never been officially registered by the nurse who saw her and so the doctors didn’t know she’d been waiting to be seen. That nurse promised she’d be seen within the hour. She finally just went home at 6 am. (I assume she returned later but didn’t hear the followup story.)

One of the problems of the place is that they do care for a lot of patients without insurance, and so there are a ton of procedures that are performed but never collected on when a fair number of people dodge the bills. This leads to underfunding, understaffing, and so on. (wolfman, to the best of my understanding, it isn’t free. I could be wrong, admittedly.)

wolfman, my understanding is that Cook County, unlike the privately run hospitals, can’t refuse to see you just because you don’t have insurance. It’s not free, but they have to see you.

Yikes! So he’s not alone in his misery.

Yeah, I would have tried the Immodium thing, too, but he was just trying to wait it out. Hence, my not-so-delicate urging for him to see a doctor.

Since he has no insurance, he really doesn’t have any options other than to go to a non-charity unit and beg for a freebie.

I would think a county outfit like Stroger (Cook County) would create satellite outpatient units. Cook County is huge, and encompasses a gazillion suburbs as well as the entire city of Chicago. I would think it would be more efficient to spread it out a little.

The scariest part of this whole story is that this is the NEW hospital. The original was literally crumbling so they built the new, high-tech version we’re pitting today. I’m so glad I have some options if I get seriously ill. Poverty truly sucks.

IIRC, any (?) emergency room has to see you regardless of insurance, but that’s not necessarily the case if you require admission. (I don’t handle billing. If there’s a big question about this, I can ask a friend in billing in my department what she knows about it.) A lot of underinsured/uninsured people go to County because they have to take care of you, though they will send you a bill later. What I’d heard at my previous job, though, was that they weren’t as aggressive as other hospitals in collecting/sending patients to collections/whatever. Just hearsay, though.

I didn’t have time to finish my story this morning - my brother-in-law went to County’s ER earlier in the year; he had no health insurance either. I told the whole story in episodes in my LJ; let me try to condense it here. He was admitted to the ER for coughing/spitting up blood. I don’t know how long it was before he was seen, but there wasn’t a complaint about that from my SIL so I’m assuming it was reasonable. They admitted him with alcoholic hepatitis (basically liver failure due to alcohol abuse), and at the time said that his family had better be notified, to the extent of calling his parents which he was mostly estranged from, because there were concerns he wouldn’t last more than a day. He did last longer than that, and my SIL spent a lot of time there with him. She complained of how it seemed like the resident who was handling a lot of the care was almost contemptuous of her patient - yeah, OK, so he blew out his liver from drinking, but he held down a job, wasn’t abusive or neglectful, and was a kind, caring, very decent human being who regardless of why still needs medical care. She got different prognoses between the people involved with his care (or sometimes from the same person, without any explanation about why the change), and was concerned that they didn’t seem to be doing much for him. She worked at yet another hospital in Chicago (not County, not mine), and called a doctor in her department who had privileges at County. He came over to see my BIL, and according to her, his care suddenly changed quite a bit.

I went over to visit a number of times as well. I will say that the nurses were kind and helpful, but the resident in charge of his care needs a mess of lessons in bedside manner. I’ve met a lot of residents and med students in my years of working in the medical field, and she was probably the most unfriendly one I’ve ever met.

(Postscript: While in the hospital, he also caught pneumonia, his kidneys started failing, and he had a stroke, but his liver started working finally. After a post-op stay at a county-funded rehabilitation center, he’s out, improving as the weeks go by, glad to be alive, and has stopped drinking. Medicaid - er, whichever one isn’t solely for senior citizens - has covered his expenses.)

He’s had this come up before (hospitalization, that is), and he got fed up with the paperwork (yeah…I know…) so they were stalking him for money for quite a while. I know my SIL, who died of alcoholism, didn’t pay a dime for her care. She was in a suburban hospital and they were wonderful with her and the family. I can’t say enough good about her care.

I’m glad for your family. Unfortunately, my SIL fell off the wagon and seven years after her “rising from the dead” thing, she passed away. Tragic story…

Wow, addressing responses to my posts twice in one thread…and I posted only twice thus far. Definitely a first for me.

Mehndo, I should have been more clear. The :rolleyes: was my way of indicating sarcasm. I completely agree that it is wrongful (and dangerous for others) to fake a heart attack or chest pains only to be seen quicker in an ER, and I have never done so.

What I should have stated in my post was the little story behind that statement…here’s the ironic part. Over my 8 hour itchy ordeal, and numerous subsequent times where I’ve rotted in a Kaiser facility for several hours waiting to be seen, each time I have been advised to do the fake chest-pain thing in order to be seen quicker. By the very nurses who check you in, take your blood pressure and temp., etc.. Also by the security guard that just sits around and keeps an eye on things. So it is the very people who run the facility and are in charge saving lives that were telling me to try and cheat the system, with blatant disregard for the seriously ill folks. :eek:

Again, I’ve never actually done this and I apologize for that statement in my post, now that I see that it didn’t come across as intended. Really though…why can’t you people just read my mind and know what I really meant? To go by what I mean and not what I say? Is that too much to ask? I swear, those hamsters really need to work on their ESP projection…

Moral of the story: when going to Strogers, or Kaiser, or any medical facility where you are breathing on your own and not spurting quarts of blood - bring a few books or magazines, some change for the vending machine, and maybe a pillow for a nap because you will be WAITING.

Our current closest ER is at Mission Hospital/CHOC, and they are having lots of trouble. You see, they discovered that they were having to treat twice the number of patients each year that the facility was designed for/could handle. So they decided to remodel and upgrade, resulting in only being able to really treat half their current patient load!

It was a disaster. My youngest was having terrible breathing problems (at around 1 yr?), and a day or so earlier had a dangerously low pulse/ox reading (in the 80s IIRC). We take the baby into the Mission ER, and we wait. Did I forget to mention that he had a temp of over 104? After about an hour with miserable baby, we see an intake nurse who lovingly jams a Tylenol suppository into the baby and tells me to go back out and wait. A few hours later, we finally get a gurney. Not a room or a curtain, but a gurney parked in the busy hallway! That’s okay, we were happy to get it! We wait on the gurney for another hour, with the kid getting oxygen through a mask that he hates and tries to tear off every second, then get xrays, then wait for the results. Then, after one breathing treatment, we were sent home and told to “watch him tonight, and maybe see you pediatrician in the morning.” And my insurance had to pay for that, sucks for them.

Sure, there may have been more serious cases waiting (but there weren’t, because I was sitting next to the desk), but for God’s sake! A baby in respiratory distress should get bumped up! Breathing is rather crucial for babies, is it not?

And by the way, a guy with a history of MI (heart attack) was complaining of chest pains and shortness of btreath, and he waited as long as we did! We were parked outside his curtain for a while! I guess they figured that if he wasn’t dead already, it wasn’t a cardiac event! :rolleyes:

I have never been to an emergency room for my own treatment. I was raised to go to walk-in clinics. Walk-in clinics have set my broken collar bone, gotten poison ivy out of my eye, and given me stitches.
A small list of clinics in Chicago

As an adult, I’ve only had to go once, two summers ago, with incredible pain in my ear that I’d let go on for over a month. I waited a half hour or so in the waiting room, another 15-20 minutes in an exam room (I puked in their sink :D), then saw a real doctor who blithely informed my pale, shaking self that I had fungus in both ears. $80 for the appointment (cash, no insurance), $25 for the prescription.

Sounds like Kalhoun-Son might have benefitted from avoidance of the ER system, from the description of his illness. However, if lack of health insurance really means -cannot pay a dime-, then… Poor guy.

There are apparently no walk-in clinics around here, probably due to some peculiarity in Louisiana law. Seriously, my mom once had to go the emergency room for a minor problem on a Sunday because she did need to be seen right away but there was nowhere else to go. This makes no sense, but it is Louisiana, so who knows?