Friday, January 10, 2014

The Only Living Cardiologist in New York

No one said it would be fun.

Wednesday, my mother in law, accompanied by one of her sons and her daughter, arrived at Beth Israel hospital in Manhattan to have a radioactive device implanted to treat her cancer.  She has to have it in for a week and will need to return Wednesday to have the device removed.

My mother in law is in her 80's, and has some health issues.  Normally, this surgery is done on an outpatient basis but due to a heart related issue, the hospital decided to keep her overnight for observation. Overall, the surgery was successful.

Meanwhile, my spouse and I are some 150 miles away.

Thursday, my mother in law was able to get out of bed, and the surgeon cleared her for discharge.  But then, someone made the decision that a cardiologist needed to examine her and give a release before the hospital would permit discharge.  I don't know "who" that someone was.  It sounded like a last minute decision.

To make a very long story short, it took the cardiologist some seven hours to get there while my mother in law and her family waited and waited and waited.  It turns out the cardiologist, who practices in Brooklyn, had to finish her regular office hours - ending around 4pm- and then drive from Brooklyn to Manhattan (this is no quick feat, in New York City rush hour traffic.) To make a long story short, the cardiologist arrived after 5 (with my family members having waited since 10am), examined my mother in law, gave her blessing, and some 20 minutes later, my mother in law was on her way home.

She arrived in good time, in good spirits, and not in any pain, all of which we are grateful for.  But we ask the question:  was this really necessary?  Was this cardiologist the only living one in New York?

We (me, my spouse, and I guess everyone else) really need to learn how to advocate and to make sure something like this does not happen next week when we have Part 2 of the surgery.

The oncologists office said they really couldn't control what the hospital does.  The hospital told my sister in law that the oncologist's office needed to deal with the issue.  So we all must ask:  WHO'S IN CHARGE HERE?

Several hours into this ordeal, we got involved, not knowing what the hold up was but wanting to help, calling the oncologist's office to see if they could help, texting and calling the brother and sister at the hospital, and the brother's wife finally calling the hospital's patient representative (the oncologist's office gave me the number, once I thought of asking if they had a department like that).  My husband's sister, in the meantime, had been working with a nurse on the floor.

So, in talking to people since this happened, I was told by several people that my sister in law and brother in law could have signed my mother in law out rather than wait.

I've now also found the website for the Beth Israel Patient Representative office.   and I will review the Patient Bill of Rights.  Maybe they can also help with the fact that we've been trying to reach the hospital social worker, but he does not seem to return phone calls.

What would be the best way to be proactive and make sure this doesn't happen again when the surgical removal takes place next week? What questions should we ask? What resources can we take advantage of to help us with our advocacy?

So we already know more than we did yesterday but need to know still more to be effective.

I appreciate your advice!


  1. What worries me even more is what if there was a cardiological emergency? If the on call cardiologist is 7 hours away I would want to be in a hospital with somebody a little closer.

    1. We spoke to the patient representative department this afternoon and their policy is quite actually quite interesting - but we were assured there would have a cardiologist on call had it been an emergency.

  2. As far as I understand, cardiologist finished his regular office hours and then drives from Brooklyn to Manhattan, that’s why they waited so long. Most likely it was her regular cardiologist.

  3. Wow, it's a shame to put everyone through that. Being in a hospital is no fun. My mom used to say, "A hospital is no place for a sick person."

  4. Oh my goodness- that is seriously worrying! 7 hours away? GULP!

  5. Your health system differs from the UK. Here, we seem to have plenty of specialists. However, the wait is often just as long as yours. Everyone is too busy. Hope you work something out.


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