St. Joe’s: Discrimination on the Basis of Disability (Part II)


Physicians are among the least emotionally healthy group of people in this country.  They are totally out of touch with life as it is lived by the majority of the people they treat.  They live in exclusive enclaves, don’t go to church, do put their kids in private schools, own vacation homes, jet around the country to follow their favorite rock stars, and then complain that nobody understands how over-worked they are.  They choose to be over-worked, quite possibly because it is rewarding and gets them away from having to deal with their kids’ drug problems, their siblings’ financial needs, and their own mortality.  As a class, physicians are arrogant and self-important.

PBS aired a documentary that followed some Harvard-trained physicians through residency.  The really interesting thing was that it also followed their wives.  One guy was doing a residency in anesthesiology.  His wife would repeatedly express distress because he was working up to ninety hours a week.  “He’s never home, and when he is home then all he wants to do is sleep. We have no life together.”  When the physician finished his residency, he divorced his wife, saying that she was “too needy.” The doctor has no frame of reference for what is normal.

And Dr. Chris Andrade has just told me that my reaction to medicine is “psychiatric.”  Okay, I can work with any SOB who is grounded in scientific reality so I ask him if he’s talked to Dr. Ghaly, who is the best psychiatrist in the county and has been mine for twenty years.  Andrade gives me a load of medical crap to evade answering the question.  Fact is, Andrade has not consulted the specialist on the case.  He does say that he’s read my chart.

Since admission two weeks ago, Dr. Ghaly has been writing notes in my chart that say I am “psychiatrically stable” and competent to make my own medical decisions.  He’s charted in every way he knows how that, from a psychiatric standpoint,I’m okay.  Medically, I’m crapped out and would they please focus on that?

Andrade has read that, and ignored it in favor of his own ignorant, baseless judgment.  For this, he will pay.  I will file a complaint against him with the NYS Dept. of Health’s Office of Professional Medical Conduct (OPMC).  They will find in his favor.  The OPMC gets thousands of complaints every year; it only investigates a few hundred and, since the OPMC is made up of doctors and nurses investigating doctors, it approves their behavior.  They do not use normal human standards to evaluate physicians; they use specialized medical standards.  Likewise, our police department will not submit to citizen oversight.  They say only other cops can understand what they go through.  Horse feathers.  Specialty groups do not get to set the standards for their behavior; they should always be judged by the standards of the community they serve.

What my OPMC complaint will do, first, is push Andrade back a little.  He will know that at least one patient understands him exactly and has done something about his bad medical behavior.  He will act more cautiously in the future.  Second, any time he applies for another position or renews his malpractice insurance, Andrade will have to report that there is a formal complaint against him.  Third, my complaint will open a file on him and the next time someone complains, it will be added to his chart. Fourth, he will get visited and interviewed; he will be made to feel uncomfortable.

Dr. Christian Andrade is taking a hit for being a bigot.

So I go to sleep and wake up in the middle of the night with the words—the thought—right there, centered in my mind: discrimination on the basis of disability.  That’s what this is all about.  St. Joseph’s Hospital, as a corporate entity, is discriminating against me because at some time in the past I was treated for a psychiatric disorder.  That’s why I can’t get proper medical treatment in this hospital or get placement outside this hospital.

Every time this hospital sends my information out to a skilled nursing home, a rehab center, or a home health care agency, the agency refuses to take me.  Every time Liza Ebert, the discharge planner, comes and tells me someplace won’t take me, I ask her why not.  She is repeatedly getting glimmers or hints or outright declarations that these places won’t take me because of my psychiatric history.  And how do they know about my psychiatric history?

Because St. Joseph’s Hospital tells them.  St. Joe’s has created a climate in which the psychiatric history comes first.  I found this out when the St. Camillus Home Health Care screener, Michelle, came to see me.  She represents the only agency that actually interviewed me.  Every other agency has turned me down on the basis of the paper work.

So Michelle is sitting in the corner of my hospital room and all she’s talking about is my psychiatric history.  Babe, I’ve got kidney damage, diabetes, arthritis, respiratory problems and some cardiac stuff:  why are we only talking about the psychiatric history?  I ask Michelle exactly that and she tells me it’s because that’s all that’s in my chart—“bipolar disorder, borderline personality . . .”  And that’s when I get really mad.

Dr. Ghaly has been my psychiatrist for about twenty years and he has never diagnosed me with borderline personality disorder. That diagnosis came from some ignorant girl therapist who got into a pissing match with me decades ago, and St. Joe’s is still carrying it and publishing it.

Decades ago, I also broke my ankle and leg:  why doesn’t that appear in my hospital chart?  What is the nature of a psychiatric diagnosis that the hospital can’t get over it?

Here are the facts:  I stopped taking all psychiatric medications ten years ago.  My last psychiatric hospitalization was about eight years ago.  Three years ago I took the MMPI (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory) which is the standard psychiatric screening tool that is used throughout society.  My scores were normal.  I have not seen a psychotherapist for about two years.  I no longer see Dr. Ghaly for psychiatric care.  I see him because he is the only physician who will care for me without drugs.

In other words, I am emotionally healthy.  I have a psychiatric history, not a psychiatric present, but St. Joe’s is putting my psychiatric history ahead of my medical present.  I cannot get any doctor at St. Joseph’s to address the medical problem of intolerance to medications because all they see is a psychiatric history, and I cannot get discharged from St. Joseph’s to any other facility—or even to home with nursing support—because all St. Joe’s says about me is that I have a psychiatric history. (To be continued)

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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