TriCare Prime Experience with Pediatric Orthopaedic at Army Hospital
Two weeks ago my 4 year old daughter, Avery, broke her arm and wrist playing at a friends house. We brought her to Doctors Emergency Room in Augusta, which was the closest Emergency Room and a civilian hospital. We had a great experience from sitting in the waiting room no longer than 15 minutes, to the speed of the entire process of X-rays, resetting the bones, soft cast, etc. I mean, if you have to go to a pediatric ER, you’re in pretty good hands at Doctors Hospital in Augusta, Georgia. The following business day, I called to see how I could get the same civilian doctor for a follow up visit as instructed during our ER visit. First, let me preface this by saying my husband and I have been on TriCare Prime for 12 years, and have only used our insurance for regular check ups and for having the babies. However, with children we definitely use our health care insurance more and for purposes we never thought. Back to the broken arm, I tried following up with the same doctor, however, my primary physician said he could write the referral for the doctor we saw but it would probably get disapproved by TriCare since the local military hospital, Eisenhower Army Hospital, provides an equivalent service.
I did not want to accept that answer, so I called TriCare to confirm the entire process. TriCare confirmed what primary physician stated, so I called to make a follow up appointment at Eisenhower, where they told me she would go to the “Cast Room” for care. I asked who her assigned doctor was and I was told it was a student doctor. I was like, “my 4 year old with broken bones is scheduled to see a student doctor!?!” I mean, I get student doctors need to practice on people for so many hours, but as a mom I don’t think it should be on my 4 year old. I kept telling myself, they must have this wrong, a student doctor is not working on my 4 year old. I called my husband at work and had him meet me at the hospital since I had already spent over 3 hours calling all over the place.
My husband meets us at the hospital, and sure enough we were told our 4 year old will be seen and cared for by a student doctor. My husband expressed our frustration, so they told us the staff pediatric orthopedic doctor would oversee our case from the start. We came back next day for our first appointment in the Cast Room and I can say, it was not what I expected. When they led us back, we arrived to a large room with 6 beds separated by curtains. The resident doctor confirmed the X-rays shows little shift, but overall the alignment looked good.
One week later at a follow-up, the resident Doctor explains the X-rays show the bone was still moving. We were told to bring her back the following Monday to do additional X-rays, and if bones are still moving, they would do an emergency surgery to align the bones and put in 1-3 pins to keep her bones in place. In preparation, we were told to have her start fasting at midnight for Monday morning appointment…at 10am – not easy to get a four year old to skip breakfast and water all morning.
Now to today, at the Monday morning, or two and half weeks after arm breaking follow up, her bones have shifted a total of 22 degrees and will most likely keep shifting. The sad news is that they highly recommend getting the pins put in to re-align the bones and keep them in place. I asked the resident doctor who would be doing the surgery, keep in mind at the beginning of all this I explained I did not want the student doctor working on my 4 year old, and of course he answers I would be doing it. So annoyed. My daughter even mentioned while we were there that she didn’t want surgery and she was nervous. After answering more questions, he told us, looking at both parents, to think about it and he would come back.
He left for a minute, and while my husband and I were talking, the doctor went to see the patient on the other-side of the curtain next to us. Our next door neighbor looked like he was in a lot of pain with his foot wrapped, covered in blankets and even his head covered in a blanket. The doctor said some things, and I wasn’t totally listening since I was thinking about the surgery for my daughter, however, I did hear the doctor tell the next door patient this is going to hurt. My mind started racing thinking what was about to happen and why they didn’t move us knowing he just told a 4 year old she will have to have surgery. Anyways, not sure what exactly the doctor was doing, but we heard multiple four-letter curse word, squeals of pain and painful moans from a grown man. My daughters face, and every other person in Cast Room that I could see, was squinting their face hearing the pain. Another pediatric patient, maybe a 7 or 8 year old boy was across from us and had a front row seat for whatever was happening on the other side of the curtain. This is where my annoyed factor goes through the roof. The resident doctor should have absolutely told the parents of the pediatric patients to move to the waiting room since whatever he was about to do was going to cause A LOT of pain for our next door patient. Our children should have never heard those words or the moans of pain coming from that man, especially a child you were prepping to have surgery who just told you they didn’t want to have surgery and was nervous about the procedure.
We did end up speaking to the staff Pediatric Orthopedic doctor, who made the time to see us while he was on leave (BIG thank you!). He brought us over to see the x-rays to put the shifting bones into perspective and explained the options of getting the procedure done now or waiting another week or two. We decided to have the pins put in but only by the Pediatric Orthopedic Doctor. I also spoke to the director of the area who said he would put in a note so student doctor will no longer have interactions with my daughter. I fully intend to fill out an ICE complaint form which is a form the military uses to learn of areas they can improve, experiences within their facilities, etc.
My experience so far is annoyed, terrified and not feeling that “equivalent service” TriCare stated was available. I am more worried for my daughter and just want to make sure she gets the best care possible. And in all honesty I wish today could be a total do-over day!
My question to you all, how would you feel if this happened to you, how would you react, what would you do, how would you comfort your child after hearing this and knowing they are going into surgery in 2 days? I am now thinking I need to switch my insurance to TriCare Select. Anyone on TriCare Select and have opinions to share?