Safety, privacy and UCSF Med Center’s failure to do the right thing

I am a UCSF School of Pharmacy alum. I consider UCSF Medical Center, along with many other people, to be one of the best medical centers in the country. And, UCSF Medical Center saved my mother’s life with a liver transplant earlier this year. However, I am frustrated with UCSF Medical Center this morning.

My mother has been doing well since here liver transplant earlier this year, but was recently admitted to a local emergency department with some complications. She was immediately transferred to UCSF where her liver transplant team is. I received the call telling me as much late Thursday night. I couldn’t get any information Thursday night and her life was not in danger so I waited until Friday morning to try to get more details on the situation.

I tried calling my mom’s room directly on Friday morning, but no one answered so I called the nurses station and was told I couldn’t speak with her nurse because they don’t take phone calls between 8:00 – 10:00am. I understand that. It’s prime time for medication distribution on the units and they try to minimize interruptions to prevent medication errors. I get it. Makes sense. However, all I needed to know was what was going on, what they’re doing and what I need to do on my end. I didn’t need her nurse to provide me with the information I needed. They ever so politely told me to call back after 10:00am. Needless to say I was irritated.

Fast forward to 10:00am. I got ahold of the nurse only to be told that she couldn’t tell me anything secondary to patient privacy. Hey, I get it, but I am her son and my name is all over her chart, her durable power of attorney, her medical records, her super secret list of people in the know, etc. Heck, I even set up the password for family members to get updates on her condition when she was there for her transplant. The nurse wouldn’t budge.

My mood went from irritated to pissed. I wanted to reach through the phone and slap the nurse upside the head. I’m several hours away, my mom is in the hospital and I can’t find out what’s going on. After handing up I redialed my mom’s room and eventually reached her. She was tired, in quite a bit of pain and loopy from the meds; not the right person to be giving me information over the phone. While my mom is an intelligent woman she’s not the one that should be answering my questions and being interrogated about tests and procedures. Fortunately she was doing better, but ia am still unclear about the nature of the problem.

According to the UCSF Medical Center website they “define quality as”:

  • Superior care and outcomes
  • Outstanding patient safety
  • Excellent service and patient satisfaction

I think they nailed the first two things on their list, but failed miserably with the third. This is one time when doing the right thing took a backseat to meeting regulatory compliance. In other words, the patient wasn’t the primary focus of the care, the rules were.

And before you privacy and safety nuts start foaming at the mouth consider this: I am the primary decision maker for my mom’s medical care for the past several years; her medical records say as much, at no point did I ask them to risk her safety and all they had to do was check their records to know that they can tell me anything.

I’ve given UCSF the benefit of the doubt many times because I love the university and the medical center, but not this time. This time they get an epic fail.


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