Thursday, January 12, 2012

Emergency Room Rant

When I picked Macie up from daycare on Tuesday afternoon her eyes were red-rimmed and teary. Apparently, Macie had just been throwing a fit in the highchair because she was not released from her confinement the instant she finished eating. Encountering the same types of tantrums at home, I was satisfied with Pam’s explanation of her tear stained face. After taking a closer look, I noticed that Macie’s left eye was more swollen, moist, and droopy than her right eye. Still, I figured that the redness, swollen, and wet eyes would clear up by the time we made it home. As I pulled onto our street Macie burst into tears and was furiously rubbing her left eye. Once inside the house I immediately became suspicious that my child had contracted pink eye, as it has been spreading rampantly around the local school districts (and my babysitter has three school aged children). With this in mind, I called the pediatrician’s office and left a message for the phone nurse, expecting to have to go in for a check up the following morning. From time to time Macie’s face would change to an expression of pain; she would close her left eye, and start screaming her head off. After describing Macie’s symptoms to the phone nurse, she insisted that Macie needed to be seen by a doctor that evening. Since their office was minutes from closing, we were forced to make a trip to the Emergency Room.

Luckily, the phone nurse called ahead to notify Children’s Hospital that we were coming, which decreased our wait time. But there have been times when we have had to wait for at least an hour and a half to be taken back to a room. This time we only had to wait about 20 minutes and we were in and out of the hospital within an hour and a half. The worst part was when Macie cried from the pain/burning in her eye L. The doctor immediately ruled out pink eye or another infection because her eyes were clear of residue. After completing a dye test on her left eye, it was determined that Macie had an abrasion, or scratch, on her cornea. The doctor proscribed us an antibiotic ointment for Macie’s eye and sent us on our way.

All in all, this was probably the least stressful and shortest E.R. visit we have had to date (we’ve had about five in total with Macie). Although there are a handful of good things about the Emergency Room, I always feel like I am being ripped off when I have to take my child. Seriously. The things we have had to take her for (always at a phone nurse’s recommendation) could have been treated at her pediatrician’s office had they been open. Who likes to spend $250 when you could have spent $20 for the same exact service? Going to the E.R. when you could have gone to the pediatrician’s office is like paying $6 versus $20 for a burger and fries.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not entirely hating on the Emergency Room. I appreciate that the E.R. is open at all times and that the doctors and nurses are always friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable even though they are working the worst shift and have been up for an unnatural number of consecutive hours. It is an excellent fall back for true medical emergencies and those extreme cases justify the high cost of service. Unfortunately, I do not categorize the things we have had to take Macie for as true medical emergencies that only a trained E.R. staff can handle. My pediatrician’s office, were they open, would have had no difficulty diagnosing and treating Macie the handful of times we have been sent to the E.R. in the middle of the night. Overall, the burdensome cost, long wait, and germy hospital visits were not justified by the medical treatment Macie required.

Surely there has to be an alternative to the Emergency Room for children needing medical treatment around the clock. Adults can go to a Urgent Care facility and pay just $50 to be seen by a doctor in the wee hours. Yes, this is about $25 more than we pay to see our pediatrician, but significantly less than the whopping $250 E.R. visit. Surely there has to be a similar place to take children that doesn’t cost such an overwhelming amount. Maybe I should talk to my pediatrician about this….?


Gaskill Family said...

In Washington, their Urgent Care also sees Children. Not sure if all of them do, but definitely worth checking in to?

Maegan B said...

Thanks, Brooke! I will ask my pediatrician next time we see him- hopefully we can do the same with Urgent Care sites in the STL- it would definitely save us a ton.

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