Hospitals will keep you alive… until they can bill you. After you’ve (hopefully) paid, they’ll toss you out in the street like garbage. And move on to the next victim… err… I mean, patient.
It was around 9 at night. I was peppering myself to sleep, enjoying my month-long vacation in the Philippines (finally!).
Then my cell rang.
I had a sickening feeling. Really… nauseating.
“Bro! I’m in a big mess! Can meet me up in the hospital?”
It was my close friend. He was in trouble.
“And bring some cash.” He added.
Really, it was sickening. He was my close friend. But that “bring some cash” part — almost made me throw up.
I opened up my two-weeks beach adventure budget. I was supposed to go to Boracay, Bohol, Cebu and Leyte’s beautiful beaches.
That budget was supposed to be kept neat and tight, only to be used this weekend. But why the hell am I touching it now? Sorry, my precious budget… A friend in need, I have to wake you from your slumber. No beach for you.
I am a good friend.
I got to the hospital and asked what the big fuss was all about. Apparently, his girl was giving birth. “Good.” I thought. “Miracle of life.”
But the hospital won’t help them without money. Good Lord.
Good thing a superhero came (me) to save the day (or night).
I went to the admitting office, I showered the grumpy lady with cash and she signaled the wheelchair guy to take the pregnant woman to the labor room.
“She’s been in pain for the last hour and the hospital won’t admit her,” my friend said.
He’s a good friend. But like the rest of my friends who decided to stay here in PH, he was immature for his age. He had no preparations, no money, no nothing.
And now, the long wait begins. The nurse from the labor room gave us prescriptions for a bunch of meds and supplies.
We went out, the pharmacy asked us, “why so many?”
“Umm… we don’t know.”
“They probably had you buy what other patients did NOT replace…”
And we of course did not understand the “DID NOT REPLACE” term. We were in panic. We couldn’t care any less. But remember this term, “did not replace.” Because this will come to bite us in the ass. Or yours too.
“900 pesos,” I told myself. Not too bad. My beach budget is still intact.
But even before we got back the labor room, that sexy-only-at-night-nurse went out and gave us a new set of prescriptions.
She said, “hurry! The patient needs this, quick.”
“Really?” I thought. “Don’t you have your own meds inside the labor room?”
But we were still in panic. We ran around the pharmacy back and forth and the prescriptions never seem to stop. I was loosing money fast! A thousand here and another few thousands there… the one-windowed pharmacy with the long line seems to be racking in a lot of money.
This happened for the rest of the night.
And I was getting furious. “why would they have us running marathons?!? Don’t they have their own stuff inside the freaking labor room?!?”
Just then, another nurse came out and screamed, “Hurry! Where’s the sample cup and the syringe? We need it now!”
“Seriously?!?” I screamed back. I was furious and I was tired. “What kind of freaking hospital doesn’t have their own syringe and sample cups?!?”
(To PG-rate this article, I typed “freaking.” But I used a different word that night.)
“But sir,” the nurse said. “It’s just the way it is.”
Gee. Remember that. “It’s just the way it is” — the most disgusting phrase Filipinos use everyday.
This went on for the next three hours. We were running marathons… with the most useless of prescriptions ever! Ie. like sample cups, syringes, wash cloths, alcohol, etc. — I was furious.
“Can’t you just give us all the prescriptions in a one-time-bunch-load?!? Why give us one by one and make us run back and forth!” Seriously, this was getting stupid.
“But sir. This is just the way it is.” The nurse said again.
Seriously… this IS getting stupid.
Finally, when I thought I could rest a while (and buy some food), The doctor came out with a “Stat! Off to the operating room for an emergency cesarean section!”
“Shirt!” I told myself. “This is gonna be a long night…” (And you know I misspelled the word “shirt”)
And a ‘shirtload’ of new prescriptions arrived. We ran up and down the stairs to the pharmacy and the central supply (because the cashier of the central supply went home). We were sweating like pigs. And the nurses were blaming us for not running fast enough.
“Where are the binders, syringes and other stuff!” The nurses were exclaiming. “The doctor needs them now!”
“Mother—–! What kind of operating room doesn’t have syringes, meds and other stuff!!”
“Quick! We need blood too! Our blood bank is empty!” The other nurse exclaimed.
And that “blood bank is empty” term panicked us, big time! So we scoured the whole city for a B positive blood. But other hospitals wouldn’t give us any. And red cross don’t want to give us either.
How the hell can a whole city be out of blood! Aren’t there enough crack addicts who sell blood to buy drugs?
And now we were screwed. We did not know what to do. “What the freak are we gonna do?!?” I asked my friend. (I typed “freak” again, but You know what I really said)
“I don’t know…” My friend said. He was about to cry.
We came up to the nurse, “we’re sorry. We scoured the whole town. We could not find any blood.”
“I’t okay.” The nurse said. “We can use our blood in OUR blood bank and you can find replacements tomorrow…”
“Seriously!!! Why the hell did you tell us your blood bank was empty! You made us run through the whole town for blood when you guys had it all along!”
“Sorry,” the nurse said. “But we need you to exhaust all options because our blood is only for the last possible option…”
“And by the way,” She added. “Because you guys were gone too long, we had to USE OUR OWN stuff in the operating room. And you guys need to replace it. Here are your new prescriptions…”
I almost burned the whole hospital down. But lucky for them, the mother of my friend’s child is still in the operating room. She would have been burned down with the hospital. So I put my “arson-ic instinct” on hold that night.
My pocket was thinning. My two-week beach vacation fantasy was slowly melting away.
“Oh, by the way.” The nurse added. “We didn’t really need blood ASAP. It’s standard SOP for blood to be on hold every cesarean section.”
Really. She ‘really’ is tempting my ability to pour gas all over the hospital and light it up.
When my wife gave birth a year ago in the US, we had no insurance, no nothing whatsoever. Yet we paid Nothing! None! Nothing! Nada! Zilch!
We walked in a public hospital. And by public, I mean, still state of the art. No stray cats and no cockroaches whatsoever. And the equipment was new and updated. And the nurses and staff were nice.
I sat down on the comfortable lounge for five hours, read the paper and bam! A beautiful baby boy came out. Beautiful… just plain beautiful. The nurses didn’t bother me for anything.
The happy-go-lucky of a doctor finally came out. “Everything is fine!” He exclaimed. “You can see the baby in the nursery room and the mother is recovering nicely!”
“Phew!” We all sighed. We rushed to the nursery room. A nurse showed us the baby through the glass window. What a beautiful baby! A miracle of life!
“Oh,” one nurse said. “Could you buy some diapers, alcohol and baby wipes, please? The baby just pooped.”
I exploded for the hundredth time that night. “What the hell kind of nursery doesn’t have diapers!!!” Seriously, it’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen!
We had no choice. We ran back to the over-priced-hospital-pharmacy, bought basic baby stuff that the nursery didn’t have. And bought the other stuff that we “needed to replace” because the operating room was pissed because they had to “use their own” supply.
We knocked on the nursery door. A disgruntled nurse opened the door, took the baby stuff and slammed the door at us.
“Sorry” I said as we peeked through the nursery room. It was sleeping time for them… Not the babies, but the nurses. The nurses were sleeping in their desks and we “apparently” woke them up. That nurse that slammed the door at us — what a witch. Oh, I’m sorry. She wasn’t really a witch. I misspelled the word “witch.” (What rhymes with “witch?”)
The stress level was so high that night, I felt like I was gonna be the hospital’s next patient. But the sight of a beautiful newborn absorbed some of the stress. And anger.
Seriously. If stress burns calories — we would’ve turned into supermodels that night.
The rest of the night was spent “replacing” their own supplies that they were forced to used.
As we were in line on the “one-windowed” hospital pharmacy, an old lady in front of me was crying. “Please,” she said to the pharmacist. “We have no more money! I can’t afford to pay these meds anymore…”
“You have to apply to ‘charge’ your bills in the admitting office then.” The pharmacist said.
Here’s the thing with the “charge to the hospital” thingy. They DON’T want you to charge. They want cash. Pure unadulterated cash.
Charging and paying later is bad for business, that’s why they scare you with 20% charge fee for the whole bill. (if your hospital bill is 100k, with “charging,” you pay 120k). That’s why they’ll do everything in their power to NOT let you charge.
“But they won’t let us charge,” the old lady said. “But we need this medicine now. My daughter’s life is in danger.”
“Excuse me,” I tapped the old woman’s shoulder. “How much is that bill?”
She was surprised. “two thousand something” she said.
I gave her two grand. She fell in tears. She told me I was heaven-sent (I was). She told me she would pray to the virgin Mary for me (holding her rosary necklace).
I told her no. It’s okay. No biggie. I don’t want you praying to statues.
I may have saved her now, but as soon as she climbs up those steps, a new set of expensive prescriptions will be given to her. She’ll get screwed like the rest of us. And virgin Mary won’t save her.
Anyway, at least the pharmacist was hot.
Anyway– As I was saying.
It went on like this for the next two days. My pocket was thinning. My beach vacation fantasy is slowly melting away.
When the doctors finally discharged us. The grumpy nurse who slammed the door at us came to me. We were in the hallway, “there’s no doors,” I thought. “She can’t slam anything at me this time.”
“Sorry,” she said.
I was surprised.
She apparently was so stressed of trying to come up with money to pay the hospital. This was her last day because she couldn’t pay the hospital anymore.
“But uhh…” I said. “Don’t you work for the hospital? Doesn’t the hospital pay you for your services?”
“No” she said. “We pay the hospital so we can work for them.”
I am just speechless at this point in time. “You know that is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard in my entire life, right?”
Everywhere else, companies pay their employees to work. Not the other way around.
“Only in the Philippines,” she muttered.
“It really is the stupidest thing,” I muttered back.
Then the next nauseating feeling came… I felt a tap on my shoulders. “Time to pay the bill,” a different nurse said.
Geez. Here we go.
I went to the assessor. “121,467 pesos…”
The assessor didn’t even blink. I guess he was used to these kinds of things. “Here’s a detailed list of your bill, Sir.”
65 grand for the doctors and 55 grand for the hospital (And I’m sure they get a cut from the doctors’ bills too).
“Freak!” I thought as I was counting my money. (and by “freak,” you know what I really said)
Not to mention the ‘almost’ 20 grand I spent on the “pharmacy marathon” — how the hell did I just spend 140+ grand in three days!
My dream vacation is over. The hospital just scammed me.
“That’s just the way it is…” The teller said.
My friend knocked at my house this morning. I asked him how the baby and mother was doing. He told me everything was fine. The baby was doing great.
He told me to hop on his van. We rode for a while, we had the van appraised, then went to a used car dealership. The van was appraised to be over 300k, but as you know, the used car salesman only wants to pay half.
Then again, I couldn’t care less. As long as I get my money and keep the vacation dream alive, I’ll be all good.
The van was sold, I was handed 160 grand (extra 20k for the stress and pain he caused me).
I’m packing my bags now. My dream vacation is alive.
I really am a good friend. 🙂
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