FARMINGTON, CT (WFSB) – A woman who grew up in Connecticut and went to UConn says the hospital associated with her alma mater put profit before her care.
Rebecca Nesbitt was visiting from her home in New Hampshire when she hurt her neck.
She requested to be transferred to a hospital close to home, which led to a fight with UConn Health.
The I-Team looked into this situation.
Nesbitt was back in CT for a birthday party last fall when she woke up at her mom’s house in terrible pain. At first, she said it felt like a stiff neck, but it continued to get worse.
“I was basically just holding my head with my hands and just crying and screaming in pain,” Nesbitt said.
She ultimately ended up at the UConn Medical Center in Farmington where an MRI eventually revealed a herniated disc in her cervical spine.
“Because the herniated disc was pressing on my nerve route, it was causing that shooting pain down my arm, and even some of the heaviest pain killers wasn’t really touching the pain,” Nesbitt said.
Doctors said she needed a discectomy and to have hardware inserted in her neck, but she was three hours from her New Hampshire home, which made her uneasy to have such a serious spinal surgery.
Nesbitt also works in the health care field for a company that sells sterilization equipment and says when she asked the UConn doctors about post-surgery infection rates, they didn’t know the answers.
“I knew what the skates are and I wasn’t willing with the lack of information and how far from home I was, and my concern was just about the facility and that they weren’t able to clarify those questions made me decided to go to a different facility for this procedure,” Nesbitt said.
Nesbitt told the doctors she wanted to be transferred to Massachusetts General in Boston.
“It was like the tides turned. I couldn’t so much as get an ice pack. The service level changed, and it was well, ‘here’s your cell phone,’” Nesbitt said.
The hospital told her it was their policy not to assist with a transfer, so Nesbitt was on her own. Still in incredible pain, she looked up the phone number for Massachusetts General Hospital and made a call.
“I just called the main line and I said, ‘I need to speak with an orthopedic surgeon because I need to have surgery.’ He asked me, ‘why are you calling, why isn’t the hospital calling,’” Nesbitt said.
The Mass. General doctor agreed to do the surgery but wanted to speak with her UConn nurse.
“He sort of reluctantly took the phone and he was on for like two minutes, and answered a couple questions. And then he handed me the phone back and the doc (sic) from Mass. General said, ‘they know what to do, there’s an internal transfer. Yes, we will accept you here,’” Nesbitt said.
Then, Nesbitt’s mom called and booked an ambulance. The crew from Aetna arrived a short time later to bring to her Mass. General.
“When she was rolling me out to the ambulance, I said, ‘is everything ok?’ And she said, ‘I’ve never been given such little information on a patient before. They didn’t give me any medical records, they didn’t give me a folder, they didn’t give me anything,” Nesbitt told Channel 3.
Nesbitt says a paper towel was all the information UConn game the ambulance crew. They were able to get her to Boston and ultimately, the surgery went well.
When Nesbitt got the bill, she said she figured out UConn’s motive.
“The surgery was over 100,000 dollars, so I get it from a business perspective why they want me to stay there, but definitely it was putting the business part first before the medical part of it,” Nesbitt said.
When she complained, UConn Health sent Nesbitt a letter saying they’re sorry to hear she was upset and had shared her concerns with their senior leadership, but stopped short of saying the staff did anything wrong.
The I-Team reached out to UConn, and while they wouldn’t answer questions about Nesbitt specifically, they sent a statement to Channel 3 saying, “there is a very clear distinction between safe interfacility transfers and situations in which patients choose to be discharged against our medical advice. AMA discharges are not transfers. In AMA discharges, our medical experts determine that it is not safe for our patients to leave the hospital under any circumstances.”
“You shouldn’t feel kind of bullied into staying at a facility and having major surgery if you don’t feel comfortable,” Nesbitt said.
Nesbitt said no one at UConn ever told her they felt it was unsafe for her to be transferred, just that it was their policy not to help with the transfer, which is why she did it herself.
She hopes others in her position will have a smoother experience.