The face of the uninsured, part 2

BY JOYCE NANETTE JOHNSON, Staff Writer

This is the continuation of my daughter’s journey to obtain medical assistance for a life-threatening condition and how the dwindling of health insurance options for the poor and disenfranchised have impacted that care.  She has become a face of the medically uninsured. Diagnosed with an unknown mass and cyst, on June 1 at Bayfront Emergency room, she then went to Pinellas County Human Services on First Avenue North, enrolled in the Public Health Program and became a patient at Bayside Health Clinic.

ST. PETERSBURG —Bayside Health Clinic is located at 14808 49th St. N in Clearwater. It is a nondescript building that sits between the Pinellas County Jail and the Pinellas Safe Harbor Homeless Shelter. On June 6, we arrived at 9 a.m. and would not be leaving until 4 p.m.

We opened the door and immediately smelled foul body odors permeating through the air. My daughter went to the reception desk, briefly explained her situation and was given paperwork for the mentally disabled. She explained that this was not for a mental health issue, but she was still instructed to fill out the form.

The small waiting room was packed with patients. There was the woman with scars on her bare head with her possessions of used paper plates, discarded food wrappers and other assorted trash in a garbage bag.  Children roamed freely through the room while adults discussed their current issues such as the hunt for affordable housing and jobs. Some had ankle monitors. Then there was the frail, skinny woman who said she could not go on any further in life and felt that suicide was the only avenue left for her.  Police were summoned and whisked her away.

After six hours of waiting, Tracey was summoned to the examination room. The rooms were clean and the staff seemed efficient. My daughter’s vital signs were recorded by a medical assistant and then she was seen by a nurse practitioner who reviewed the paperwork from the hospital and never examined her.

She explained that Tracey needed to be seen by a gynecology specialist and that she would need to request an approval and that she would mark her condition as urgent. The gynecologists would be the ones to order extensive tests, confirm the diagnosis and recommend a course of action. I was elated, but my elation was short-lived.

“On June 12, I called to check the status of my gynecological referral,” explained Tracey. “I was told that the authorization had not been marked as urgent and that normal approvals can take up to two weeks.

“On June 20, I called Bayside and the receptionist claimed the referral was finally approved and had been faxed over to Bayfront Medical OB/GYN on Sixth Street South,” Tracey said.  “I contacted the gynecologist office to confirm the receipt of the paperwork. They stated they still had not received them and was embarrassingly explaining how a fax worked.”

My daughter was informed that once they received the authorization they would call to set up an appointment. She called Bayside to request the approval to be faxed over again.

After waiting until June 27, she called to check on the status of the appointment and was told that the records still had not been received. Tracey stubbornly remained on hold for 20 minutes while they finally confirmed that the information was indeed there.  However, she did not have a doctor assigned to her yet and no one had reviewed her records.

Uninsured, featuredOn July 3, after not hearing from them she called back to check the status and was informed that an appointment had already been set up for July 10, but no one had ever contacted her with the appointment date.

That night my daughter cried. I hugged her tight and told her God was on the mainline until her tears ceased. I left with a big smile plastered on my face, went to my room, locked the door and sobs wracked my body as I held my hand to my mouth to muffle my cries. We will fight on.

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