Our local paper, The Roanoke Times, has a monthly column written by a local geriatric physician. Our region has been known as of late, as a wonderful place to retire and Health care is in fact, our largest local industry so the column does hit home with many people.

In yesterday’s paper, a woman apparently wrote the following question to the physician columnist:

I just took my mother home from a nursing home, and I never have seen so many people not give a damn about what they do. First, at the hospital, they just pushed her through and pushed her out of that place as fast as they could like she was a piece of garbage. And it was like they couldn’t be bothered with me if I asked somebody something about my mother.

Then they pack her up and send her to some nursing home, and there they got her all messed up by sending over the wrong paperwork. And they sent some of the prescriptions but not all of them, and the ones they did send were wrong. After that, I just took her home and said forget about it.

I want to complain to somebody about all of this, but they talk to you like you have a problem. I’m sick of it, and other people are sick of it, too. If this is what they do to people, I’ll keep her at home and do my best. They can send some lawyer chasing after me to pay their bill, but I’m not giving them a penny.”

AMEN I wanted to add after I read this Woman’s complaint. She is right about many things and while her letter may be overstatement or hyperbole, she is not alone in feeling the current system does not care about her, or her mother.

I kept reading, hoping that the columnist physician would offer some helpful response on how to make our health care system work for those in need.

And did the physician provide such a response? No. Not really. Instead he told the woman he understood how she felt, and that he agreed “at times, it seems that the interests of the “system” are above the interests of the individual, and it diminishes the person to the level of a profit-and-loss statement.”

He goes on to say “there are times when the system needs a wake-up call, and it is up to you and me to provide that call.” He tells a story wherein he testified to Congress that he worried patients were suffering because of budget cuts.

So again, he has seen the system fail at least some patients, and his advice to fixing it?

Tell the hospitals when they mess up. Oh, and “get busy” because the health care system belongs to us.


Demanding better care?
Refusing to send patients to facilities that put profit above care?
Write Congress?
Picket hospitals that allow gross mistakes to cause harm?

DO WHAT? I want a little bit more meat to your answer on how to reform our system.

He reminds me of a Miss Virginia pageant I once attended when a contestant was asked about affirmative action, an whether it had a place in American society. She said “Affirmative action is a very important issue” smiled, and said nothing else.

Dr. C agrees with the letter writer that our health care system needs improvement. He invites all of us to get busy on improving it, but like so many, does not provide any advice on how to actually improve it.

Well, I do appreciate his honesty and his invitation for public discourse, but I would be grateful to learn from those on the inside, how he thinks change can be achieved.

Maybe I’ll write him a letter, and ask for more details.

Lauren Ellerman
Lauren Ellerman

In 2011, Lauren Ellerman was named "Young Lawyer of the Year" by the Roanoke Bar Association for her work in the community. To speak with Lauren about your personal injury case, contact her at