2008-12-11 / Letters

Not Clear What Makes An Emergency At FCMC

To The Editor:

I have always considered myself to have a firm grasp on the English language and up until this weekend, I thought I could define the word "emergency."

On Saturday, my 2-year-old son woke from an afternoon nap struggling for breath and had to be rushed to Fulton County Medical Center. Upon arrival, I rushed through the door of the ER with my son in my arms and anxiously approached the front desk. With great concern I explained that my baby was having a difficult time breathing and I wanted him seen immediately. At that time I was told "have a seat and someone will be with you shortly." That was a precursor to the nonchalant treatment that would ensue during the rest of our four-hour stay at the facility.

For several hours, my son coughed violently and gasped for breath and even began choking and turning colors at one point. My child got virtually no assistance during this horrible experience and no one seemed interested in helping.

After what seemed like an eternity, the ER doctor was "kind" enough to advise that he could not seem to figure out what was wrong with my son and that we could probably go home if we lived close. According to this so-called medical professional, my son's X-ray was clear.

After our insistence, the physician conceded to consult with our pediatrician. At that point we were arranged for transit to Chambersburg Hospital, and the ER doctor stated that he thought we could jut go ahead and drive on over since our son was not critical, in his assessment. However, we insisted on an ambulance, because we were so concerned for our son and feared that the worst may happen if we attempted to make the trip on our own.

As we waited for the arrival of the EMS crew, the baby began to choke once again and my husband rushed him out to the nurse's desk for assistance. The doctor smugly replied from the desk that he did not believe the child was choking, he was fine. When my family expressed their disgust with the way that this doctor was treating our son, his response was that they would need to go to the waiting room or risk having criminal charges pressed against them. Criminal charges for demanding medical attention ... unbelievable!

I fully understand that the emergency room sees a lot of patients with various degrees of medical distress. There are many folks who have no choice but to use the emergency room for routine care as well. But, what is an emergency? To me, a baby that can't breathe is clearly an extreme emergency, but the ER doctor on call on Saturday evening at the FCMC must operate with a different impression of what an emergency situation is. This was not a child with a hangnail, runny nose or a toothache. It was truly a neardeath situation that deserved to be treated as such. This doctor was interested in talking with the staff about what he was having for dinner, what his plans were for the next day, but nothing about taking care of my son. This is completely unacceptable and unforgivable.

For those readers who are wondering what did happen to my son, he was rushed by ambulance to Chambersburg Hospital where he spent several days in the pediatric care unit being treated for double pneumonia. He is now recovering at home and doing well.

The communities of Fulton county need to know that this is how your Medical Center treats patients. During the past several years, the community has been solicited by Fulton County Medical Center for contributions toward the establishment of a new facility and one that was promised to better serve the needs of Fulton County. I am sure that I speak for most citizens when I say that I have no problem contributing to such an effort when I know that I can rely on the facility for the needs of my family.

I have to wonder if the Medical Center's billing office will respond in the same manner as the doctor. Something tells that they will view our bill for the visit and the subsequent payment as an "emergency" that requires immediate attention.

Krista (Fletcher) Streletz


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