March 01, 2005

Patient, Cure Thyself

NOW HERE'S a nice and infuriating story out of -- where else? -- Northern California. It seems that Sarah Nome, an 82-year-old Marin County woman who is upset at the health care she has received, has been occupying a San Rafael hospital room for the past year. The San Francisco Chronicle reports she has not only refused to take part in planning for a move to a nursing home or her eventual discharge, she won't leave until an acceptable Marin County facility is found which will take her.

The hospital in question, Kaiser Permanente San Rafael Medical Center, is unwilling to forcibly remove the troublesome old biddy. Therefore, it has instead run a tab for Mrs Nome's care. This now tops $1.2 million, and is increasing at the rate of $3,090 per day. The hospital has sued Mrs Nome to recover this, and has also challenged the transfer of Mrs Nome's home to her daughter, alleging it was fraudulent. Meanwhile, Mrs Nome is occupying an acute-care bed despite not being sick. Her justification for this, the Chronicle reports, is as follows:

"When you pay Kaiser insurance month after month for 50 years like I have, you expect to be treated like a good patient and a human being," Nome said the other day from her hospital bed. "If I had known that Kaiser would take me for only a couple of days and then would expect my family to take care of me, I would have paid my family what I paid for insurance."

We submit the above suggests that Mrs Nome is either willfully dense or amazingly possessed of that slothful sense of entitlement one normally associates with wanton benefit cheats. We do understand that Mrs Nome, like many aged people, does not want to be a burden on her family in her old age. That said, Mrs Nome's long involvement with the system means she knows full well how it works, and she should accept the fact she will have to make certain sacrifices as a result.

For Mrs Nome's scandalous and reprehensible conduct is a slap in the face to all those hard-working pensioners who have played by the rules, and also a slap in the face to those pensioners' families. We saw how hard our mother and our aunt worked to navigate those rules when our maternal grandmother was sick, and as such, it frustrates us immensely to see Mrs Nome game the system for all it's worth. Mrs Nome's actions are not merely selfish in the extreme, they force others to carry her weight -- an act one would normally think anathema for someone in her generation.

Other writers, notably Ken Summers over at Emily Jones' site, have inquired as to where Mrs Nome's family is in all of this. We also wonder just what the devil Mrs Nome's family is doing. But as the Chronicle does not say in its story, we are forced to reserve judgment on that aspect of things. After all, Mrs Nome is of arguably sound mind if not of body, and it would not surprise us if they've had as much luck as the hospital has had in cajoling Mrs Nome to leave. That's just the way things are sometimes.

Still, stubbornness is not a virtue, and there is the small matter of that hospital bed which Mrs Nome is occupying -- a hospital bed presently unavailable for someone who really needs it.

We do hope her reticence has not meant others have received diminished care as a result of her squatting. We would further hope Kaiser Permanente would be a bit more forceful in its attempts to evict Mrs Nome from its hospital. We would suggest sedation and subsequent relocation to a county nursing facility -- but if that doesn't work, perhaps other tactics could be used. One thing's for sure, the hospital food ain't driving her away.

We are glad that Kaiser Permanente has apparently moved to seize Mrs Nome's former home as part of its fight to drive her from the facility. It would be quite fitting if Mrs Nome was forced to spend the rest of her days in the meanest of situations because she had no money to pay for better nursing care. It is a situation which apparently could have been avoided had she accepted the inevitable from the start. But as the old folks say, "you made your bed -- now lie in it."

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at March 1, 2005 08:58 PM | TrackBack

Mrs. Nome's daughter was on a television newscast. She spoke of her poor mother having no place to go. (you know like her own HOME that the daughter now has in her name)

Posted by: Steve at March 3, 2005 07:18 PM