Fixing What’s Broken

Good morning, peeps.

Here’s the news for today:  I just saved you $155 with Medicare/Medicaid, and my open letter to Centro bus company did some good.  But first, the weather:  it’s gorgeous.

The Broken Prong Story

I have a power wheelchair and the power wheelchair has a recharging unit—a box about 3” by 5” by 8” that sits on the floor and is connected to the chair by a six-foot power cord and to the wall socket by another six-foot power cord.  The plug to the wall socket has three prongs and the prong that grounds the plug broke off in the socket so I called the building superintendent and he removed the faceplate and the broken prong.  Then I emailed my doctor and asked for a prescription to have the plug replaced on the wheelchair.

You didn’t know, did you, that Medicaid/Medicare wheelchair repair requires a doctor’s order?  Silly you.  Here you thought your doctor went to medical school to repair bodies, not wheelchairs, but stick with me and I’ll learn you better.  So yesterday morning the wheelchair repairman, whose training appears to have been on the job, arrived.  I explained the problem and he swapped out the recharging unit for a new one.  The new one has a stupid design flaw.

The old one has two lights on top.  When you plug it in, one light glows red and the other light glows green.  When the wheelchair is fully charged, the red light turns green.  Simple and sensible, huh?  The new one had its lights on the side not the top, that is, the lights were one inch off the floor, facing sideways.  Please imagine that you are so crapped out that you can’t even walk.  Do you really think you can scrunch down and peer at something on the floor?  What idiot redesigned this?  

So the tech guy and I talk about it, and then I ask him how much the new unit cost.  He says, “$180.”  I say, “Huh!” and tell him that my dad would have gone to the store, bought a new plug, cut off the old plug, stripped back the rubber cord cover, and attached the wires to the new plug.  My dad was a psychology professor who taught himself how to fix things around the house.  The job would have cost about two-fifty, not $180.

So the wheelchair repairman, who comes from the medical equipment supply company, says, “Oh, do you want me to just replace the cord instead of the whole unit?”  Duh-h-h, yes, I say.  Then I ask how much the cord costs.

“Twenty-five dollars,” he says.  So then we fill out a whole sheaf of paper, including a HIPAA form.  Why the heck has wheelchair repair been taken under the cloak of patient confidentiality?  Listen, if my wheelchair has privacy issues, it bloody well should take care of them itself without dragging me into signing papers.

This whole broken-prong-repair business has taken 15 minutes.  The last paper I’m given says that the repairman’s time is billed at $25 in 15-minute increments.  The medical supply company is billing Medicare/Medicaid a hundred dollars an hour for this guy, who never went to medical school.  That’s where your tax money is going, folks.

The Broken Air-Conditioning Problem

On Monday I posted an open letter to Frank Kobliski, executive director of Centro bus company ( ) and sent it to the U.S. Dept. of Justice, the Federal Transit Administration, Frank, his senior vice president, the marketing director, the customer service lady, and the Call-a-Bus manager, assistant manager and two supervisors.

Centro was not effectively training their drivers how to turn on the air conditioning in Call-a-Bus’s short buses, consequently disabled adults were repeatedly being locked in a closed vehicle with the temperature over 90 degrees.  It’s a crime if you do that to a dog or a baby, and I told Frank that if it happened to me again then I was going to call the police and have the driver arrested, and call the news media and have the arrest taped for the evening news.  I don’t know which action bothered him more.  (And, by the way, I posted the open letter because Frank stopped speaking to me years ago.  I made too much sense.)

So I posted the letter on my blog on Monday and on Tuesday Centro posted notices in all the short buses.  On the dashboard, there now are two strips of tape.  Basically, one says Here are the controls for the air conditioning.  The other says Read the directions behind the visor.  And behind the visor now there is a laminated card that gives the driver step-by-step directions on how to turn on the air conditioning.

I have been filing complaints about this damaging heat situation for years.  Centro did nothing.  Frank Kobliski, why does it take a public threat of arrest to get you to take action?  Under my pressure and consistent with FTA/ADA regulations, you created an advisory council for disabled riders.  The only Call-a-Bus (CAB) rider you put on the council was me, and I quit when you wouldn’t listen to me.  You filled the council with bureaucrats who work, have earned income, and own their own vehicles.

Put three Call-a-Bus riders on the advisory council, or else I’ll keep posting your problems on-line where everybody reads about them.  And I don’t mean three mealy-mouthed old ladies who thank God for Call-a-Bus.  CAB paratransit is an act of Congress, not God, and this is a democracy where the people are to be served, not an autocracy where you get to do whatever you want.

Have a good day; the weather’s still gorgeous—and hot.  And I’ve got CAB rides scheduled.

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
This entry was posted in activism, advocacy, American medical industry, disability, disability rights, Government Services, Medicaid, Medical care, Medicare, Poverty, Power, power wheelchairs and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Fixing What’s Broken

  1. Sally Johnston says:

    There are currently two members on the advisory committee that use call a bus

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