Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Advocating Your Healthcare

During my husband's last health crisis in the Philippines, I have come to realize how it is incredibly important for a foreigner to have someone advocate for their healthcare.  Let me explain.

When my husband was bedridden for awhile because of his back pain (spondylosis) and after his initial hospitalization, we contacted the Veterans Affair in Manila at the end of October 2015.  He was given oxycodone to manage his pain.  However, one of the significant side effect of oxycodone is constipation.  So you can imagine how difficult it was for my husband to manage constipation when he could barely walk to the bathroom.  I cannot tell you how difficult that time was for me (as a caregiver) and for my husband as a patient.  We requested the VA in Manila several times for valium which my husband knows to be effective for him in previous bouts of back problems and does not have the same side effects.  I called VA Manila constantly, asking the primary care doctor to either refer us to a back specialist OR give us a Valium prescription.  By the end of November 2015, I still did not hear even a bleep from the VA.  Upset, angry and at the verge of a meltdown, I dug deep into my "lawyer" mode, and brought my disabled husband in a wheelchair to the VA even without an appointment.  I wrote a long letter to the VA director and although we had no appointment I demanded to speak to either our primary care doctor OR to a patient advocate.  The staff at the reception/lobby at the VA was ready to dismiss me as just another Pinay, but I look them in the eye, spoke fluent English, and told them I was not leaving until I spoke to either our primary care doctor or to a patient advocate.  Once I spoke to the patient advocate, I told him in no uncertain terms, that if the primary doctor doesn't do anything to help my husband over a clearly service-connected disability, I will have his medical license revoked for negligence.  To make a long story short, we changed primary doctors then and there and the new primary doctor scheduled us with a spine doctor in less than a week.

As a foreigner, it is difficult sometimes to be taken seriously in a foreign land.  Your "loud" "cantankerous" manner can be viewed as something that  most foreigners are prone towards and the average Pinoy can view it as menacing.  Most pinoys may just ignore you or report you to the Bureau of Immigration as an undesirable alien. But it helps when you do have someone who can advocate for you who is a Pinoy and not necessarily a laywer.

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