The big surprise in Bill Lueders' article "Up Against the Health Care System" (4/3/09) is that Lueders gave so much space to someone with such a petty grievance. Since most people know the ER is for acute emergency medical care, couldn't David Peterson have waited a few hours to see his optometrist?
Did he really need to be so belligerent toward the ER physician, Dr. Elizabeth Tumpach, for not locating the tiny foreign body in his eye, which could happen to any provider despite a thorough exam? Does that really call for reporting her to the state medical board?
And did either Peterson or Lueders consider that perhaps Peterson's optometrist found the foreign body so easily because the patient's eye had probably teared copiously in the time between his ER and optometry visits? In fact, the "speck of wood" may have ultimately flushed itself out without any intervention, and your readers and the state board could have been spared from hearing about this.
Trevor Dennie, M.D.
Regarding your story about David Peterson's experience at St. Mary's, I had a similar experience at Meriter. I have a history of depression, made worse in recent months by economic troubles, so a family member urged me to go to the hospital's emergency room for help. I spoke with a social worker for at most a half hour, over a four-hour period.
Eventually, the social worker told me there was inadequate psychiatric staff to accept any more patients at either Meriter or UW Hospital, and apologetically sent me home. Three weeks later I got the bills: $306 from Meriter, and $380 from Madison Emergency Physicians (a doctor peeked in at one point). The social worker (my primary point of contact) said they couldn't do anything for me - so why am I getting charged? I contested the bill with Meriter but it was upheld.
Name withheld on request