Letter to the Editor:

Last weekend, my wife and I ran up against some new realities of modern health care. My father-in-law wanted to get into some appropriate senior care facility because, at 100 years of age and with an advanced lung disease, he was having trouble breathing, walking, dressing and eating, and we were concerned for his safety.

Dad’s primary care provider told us the correct procedure was to call an ambulance, which would transport him to Ascension Eagle River Hospital where he would be evaluated and sent on to an appropriate nursing home, probably in Rhinelander, for professional care. Only part of that plan worked out.

The hospitalist was only able to admit him for observation because his condition was not abnormal for an old man. So Dad was ordered a quick tune-up and no nursing home. 

The health care workers we encountered were kind and attentive, but unable to help us in the way they wanted to. When we asked why, they each had the same verbatim answer “The system is broken.” I think this meant that some regulation, algorithm or policy is getting in the way of helping an old man; some bottom line or stockholder interest is more important than actually helping people.

The system is indeed broken. When you are assigned a nurse practitioner rather than a doctor; when a doctor’s appointment occurs on a computer monitor with a doctor in Wausau; when caring, but untrained family members are left to care for the complex needs of an aged relative then, yes, the system is broken.

But how to fix it? I suggest that when you are unhappy with how your health care is being handled, write to your state representative and senator, U.S. congressman and senator. 

Let’s generate some grassroots pressure to push back against the dollar-driven decline in the way health care is provided in this country. They eventually have to listen, don’t they?

Tom R. Zander