November 21, 2018

Bad Medicine at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center

On February 28 of this year I had ananterior cervical discectomy and fusion surgery on my neck at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Burbank. The surgery was a success and I have been pain free since I woke up from surgery. I was not only blessed to have a great surgical outcome, but I wrote about my experience with the clergy at Saint Joe’s because they impacted my experience.

Chaplain Phil Kiehl and Rebecca Stringer from the chaplain’s office both came to pray with me. Phil said a prayer with me and my son before my surgery, and Rebecca came and prayed with me before I went home. They were kind, and loving, and I felt the power of their prayers. They both said prayers tailored to my faith, which I appreciated. The prayers mattered and have stayed with me. I felt lucky to have had such a wonderful experience, both physically and spiritually. Sadly my good feelings about Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center did not last very long. In fact, they went from good, to bad, to disbelief, and now I am angry. Angry and disgusted by what can only be described as unethical and unprofessional practices of Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center.

I have spoken to countless people at the hospital and after the last conversation I had with an employee at Saint Joseph’s, I am left with no other choice than to not only write about it, but hire an attorney because these people are lying at every level and one can only assume I am just a drop in bucket of lies. I am standing up for not only myself, but for those who are not strong enough to stand up. If they are billing me for thousands of dollars of services that were not provided, and I was admitted for less than 24 hours, what is going on with people who are there for prolonged periods of time, or those who don’t have health insurance? As for my insurance, that is another fascinating lesson with this surgery. Medicine is amazing, but it is also very dirty and money driven.

I received a bill from the hospital for $1859.76. There was no breakdown of what it was for, just a lump sum. I had already paid for the anesthesiologist and the surgeon, so I called the hospital to ask for a breakdown of the charges, what was paid by my insurance coverage, and what the balance of $1859.76 included. They provided me with a list of charges, but there was something fishy going on. They billed $7570.51 in pharmacy charges. I was there for less than 24 hours and the only things I took was 3 Vicodin and a package of Halls throat lozenges. They billed $1840.00 for physical therapy, and I never had any physical therapy. There was also a charge of $54211.01 for Medical Supplies and $62900.00 for the operating room. I accept being charged for what they provided, but they did not provide all they have billed for. Period.

The big issues I had however were with the pharmacy and physical therapy charges. I called the hospital and said I was disputing the charges and wanted them to be reviewed. I was transferred to a woman named Jenny Ritchie in the Business Office, and explained everything to her. She told me she was going on vacation and would call me when she got back in a week. She never called. I called her back three times and finally got a hold of her. She apologized for not being in touch and needed me to explain everything to her again. I told her the hospital would not provide me a breakdown of the pharmacy charges. I also explained I was being charged for physical therapy I never received. She told me she would investigate and get back to me. I never heard from her.

A couple of weeks later I receive a letter from Saint Joseph’s telling me they had investigated my bill and determined it was correct and the bill was now due. I called the Business Office but nobody would take my call. While waiting for a call back I received a letter from Wendy Katsiotis, who is a Supervisor with the Inpatient Physical Therapy Department. A woman I’d never spoken to. Her letter let me know she investigated my case and it had been closed. I’m not sure how it can be properly investigated without anyone ever speaking to me, so I called her to ask. I explained I never received physical therapy in the hospital.  I told her I met the physical therapist, but had declined treatment in the hospital as I have been doing physical therapy for a year and was good to go. She told me she spoke to the physical therapist on duty during my stay, and she assured her she not only consulted with me, but took me on a walk around the hospital floor. I assured her that was not at all true and never happened.  She told me there “were a couple people on her floor who she thinks would totally lie, but not the girl assigned to me”. So they lie, but not the girl who met me?

I explained I never received treatment and did not go for a walk. She then told me that I was too high to remember. Considering they charged me for $7000.00 of narcotics, that might make sense, but no. I told her it would make no sense to walk around a woman who was high and had a new neck. Ms. Katsiotis then asked me if perhaps I had an opioid addiction and could function while high. So I was clear, I reiterated that only some of her employees lie and they provide physical therapy to people who are high. She said yes, wished me well with my new neck, and that was that. I called back Ms. Ritchie and got through, only to be told it was my word against theirs and the case was closed. Oy vey with these people. I then called my insurance company to let them know what was going on.

The people at Blue Shield of California were lovely. I heard from Chrystal H., and Dani C., both in the Grievance Department. I then spoke to their supervisor Danielle, who listened. She said they would investigate the charges, but at the end of the day they had a contact with the hospital, so they were able to charge what they wanted and there was not a lot Blue Shield could do about it. I did not have physical therapy, I did not have $7000.00 worth of opioids in less than 24 hours, and there is simply no way that 20 hours at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center should be billing $152,061.52 when the anesthesiologist and surgeon were paid for separately. This is unethical business practices. They are lying and it shockingly seems to be completely legal. Not cool.

I have called the hospital and asked for arbitration of the bill. I was assured someone would call me, but that was 8 days ago and no call. Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center has billed incorrectly, call me an opioid addict, told me their staff lies, and never once called to ask me what happened during my stay. I can only imagine what they get away with when nobody asks questions. I am grateful and thankful my neck is doing great, but I am not paying the bill because it is a lie. Not only are they charging for things that didn’t happen, they’re smirking while they do it because they’re protected by a contract with the insurance companies. They’ve never come across someone like me however. Don’t mess with an angel, and buckle up when an angel is keeping the faith.