Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Red tape

I find dealing with medical aid's extremely frustrating.

Before I could be admitted for confinement I had to obtain a pre-authorization number from my medical aid scheme. The first time I called (which was about a month before my due date) I was told to call back in two weeks because the authorization was only valid for two weeks. I was also told that because it was for confinement, I could call at any time if I went into labour because obviously I could theoretically go into labour at any time and they would then immediately give me authorization. When I called back two weeks later I was told to rather call back on the day I went into labour because that would ensure the number wouldn't expire. Fair enough I thought.

So on the morning that I started having contractions I called the medical aid for my authorization number. The call centre lady asked if my due date was still the same. "Yes" I answered, "but I'm having contractions now so that's why I'm calling for the number now". "Have you seen your doctor yet?" she asked. "No" I replied. There was a short silence, then she gave me the number. At the time I had so many other things on my mind that I didn't really have time to get annoyed.

So I went to the labour ward that evening (21 October) as I've mentioned and gave birth the next morning.

This morning I received an account from the anaesthetist and a note asking me to submit the account to my medical aid scheme. I thought this was strange as accounts are usually submitted by a doctor's secretary so I phoned the medical aid to find out if they had in fact received the account. I was told that the claim had been rejected as their records show I was admitted on the 22nd and how could the doctor operate on me on the 21st if I wasn't even there? I was completely taken aback by the pedantry. Obviously there had been a mix up with the dates somewhere, but they were using this as an excuse not to pay out. I felt my spirits sink because I knew this meant I was in for a fight and I hate fighting.

"I was admitted to the labour ward on the evening of the 21st" I said "and delivered the baby on the morning of the 22nd. And he didn't operate me, he gave me an epidural". "What time were you admitted to labour ward?" she asked. "In the evening around 5" I replied. I didn't see the relevence of the time, but anyway. "Well that's not what our records show" she said, "we'll need a motivation from the doctor". Damn, I thought. I know how much doctor's hate writing motivations. I could tell I wasn't going to get anywhere with this woman so I said goodbye and decided to call the hospital.

Dealing with the hospital was pain free. I stated my problem and was immediately put through to the right person who told me that their records showed I was admitted on the 21st but that the medical aid had probably not received their account yet. She gave me her name and number and said I was welcome to ask the medical aid to phone her directly.

I then decided to phone the anaesthetist's rooms and speak to his accounts lady to cover my bases. This was a mistake. When I told her what was going on she started moaning like a banshee. As I was listening to her tirade, I considered cutting her off and being short with her. After all, it wasn't my fault, why did I have to listen to her whining like I was her boyfriend? You don't shoot the messenger! But I decided to just let her go on because I was too tired to fight - I regretted this afterwards though. When she came up for breath after about 2 minutes of ranting, I told her I'd try to sort it out and get back to her. She then started ranting about the medical aid again before she finally said goodbye.

I phoned the aid scheme again and told them that the hospital's claim did show I was admitted on the 21st. I was told that the authorization was for the 22nd. You have got to be kidding me, I thought. After all the run around I got from them about the authorization? This just pissed off. I was put through to another department.

Once again I stated my case to the next person I spoke to. She put me on hold to check something and when she came back she told me that the project manager wasn't in so she took my number and told me... she'd call me back.

Saturday, November 1, 2008


So I narrowly escaped having my baby cut out by a gynae.

Due to unforseen circumstances, I ended up having my baby in Cape Town. This meant I had to find a new gynaecologist/obstetrician. My cousin suggested her gynae and I went with him.

I started having contractions last Tuesday morning. As I've mentioned before, my first labour went very quickly, so I was anxious about waiting too long before going to the hospital. When my contractions started getting reasonably strong I decided that maybe it was time to go in. My partner suggested I rather call the gynae first. So I did and he suggested I go to his rooms and he'll check me out. When I got there, I was having fairly strong contractions. However, my cervix was still closed, but because my first labour had progressed so quickly and I was already having strong contractions, the gynae wanted me to go in to hospital. Both my partner and I were uncertain about this but we decided to go through.

We went home first (my parents' home) to pick up our son and my mother to go along to the hospital. When we got to the labour ward, the nurses remarked on how the gynae had been phoning constantly to see where I was. Not a good sign.

The midwife set me up in the labour ward and gave me an enema as per the doctor's instructions. Unpleasant. Anyway, she then told me she would call the anaesthetist to get me an epidural. I said I felt it could wait (I wanted to know how far I had progressed first because I didn't want to have the epidural too early) but she told me the gynae had said that the anaesthetist was very busy and that if I didn't get it then I might end up not getting it at all. My contractions were starting to get quite painful and I didn't want to end up not getting an epidural. Also, I knew they could top it up if started to wear off, so I agreed to go ahead with it. The anaesthetist who was first on call was indeed too busy so the second on call came in. He also apparently had alot lined up that night so in the end I was happy I'd gone for it then.

The epidural was much more painful than my first one had been and I reacted quite badly to it. At a stage the anaesthetist even dropped my bed and drew up some adrenaline. I recovered with only fluid resus though. I felt terrible though and at a stage I even wondered what was worse: the pain or the effects of the epidural? (The epidural started to wear off later though and I came to the conclusion that the pain is definately worse!)

Then my gynae came to see me. He remarked to the anaesthetist that he was exhausted. I knew this didn't bode well. He did a PV. I was only 1cm dilated. He seemed unhappy. It was already about 8 in the evening by now. He decided to rupture membranes to speed things along. He came back to check on me about an hour later. 1 and a half centimetres. I knew he would soon try to sell me a caesar. He started talking about how I should have progressed much further by now and started throwing around phrases like "big baby" and "malposition of the head". Then it came: he said that we could either wait and see or we could just call it quits and go for the caesar then. We told him we'd wait.

He decided to go home and asked the midwife to check my progress in about another hour. My partner and I discussed the situation. I felt he should only check on me in another 4 hrs seeing how I was still in passive labour. We both knew there wouldn't be much change in an hour. We knew he would try to coerce us into taking the caesar.

After about an hour, the midwife came to check on me. No change. She called the gynae. She came back with the message. He had given it a chance but I was not progressing so he would book theatre for a caesar. I said no. I told the midwife that as far as I was concerned there was no rush. I was still in passive labour and doing fine and the baby was being monitored and she was fine. If anything went wrong, we would know immediately and then we'd agree to a caesar, no question, but right now, there was no need for it and we were happy to wait.

She seemed to agree with me but said she'd give us time to discuss it.

We agreed that there was no reason to have a caesar. My partner decided to call my original gynae (a colleague of his) to cover our bases. He confirmed what we suspected. We turned down the caesar. The midwife relayed this to the gynae and he asked us for a time frame for how long we were willing to wait. It was nearly 11 at night by then. We said we'd wait until 6 in the morning. She came back and said that he'd told her that if nothing had happened by 06h00 he would book theatre. I was still not happy with that and told her that if nothing had happened by then we could discuss it again. She said that would be easy enough to do.

We decided to try and get some sleep. I was unable to rest easy though. At about 02h30 the midwife came to check on me again. She said she thought something was happening. She was right: I was 5cm dilated. Relief washed over me (and my partner when he woke up an hour later. He slept slightly better than I did ;) ).

By about 05h30 I was fully dilated and the midwife called the gynae. At 05h47 I delivered a perfectly healthy little girl. (He made some remark about how the head must have turned at some stage. Yeah right.)

I ended up having an episiotomy and a vacuum extraction as the baby's head remained high, so it wasn't actually an NVD, but at least I escaped having unnecessary major abdominal surgery.