After an Army veteran broke her leg in a freak accident on a friend’s bike, she is facing thousands of dollars in charges after her requests to be transferred to a VA hospital went unanswered.
The accident occurred earlier this year in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood, and Kat Baptista is still shaken by the events of the day.
“I couldn’t brake and I ended up toppling over and I knew something was wrong,” she said. “Next thing I knew, someone had called an ambulance. My foot was backwards and broken, and I started screaming and I blacked out.”
Baptista was taken to Norwegian Hospital after the accident, but in the two days before she underwent surgery on the injury, she asked to be transferred to the nearest Veterans Administration hospital.
Baptista does not have health insurance, and knew that her cost of care would be reduced at a VA facility.
“It should not have been a big deal at all,” she said.
Baptista said that both she and her fiance asked at least three times for the transfer to be completed, but that hospital workers never followed up with her.
“There was no follow-up. There was no anything,” she said.
Baptista said that her multiple-day hospital stay and surgery at Norwegian will cost her in excess of $15,000, and she’s unsure of how she will pay the bill.
“If she was in a hospital for a couple of days before she had surgery, then she was probably transferrable,” private patient advocate Avrom Fox said. “It is appalling someone in this condition is worry about a $15,000 hospital bill. It needs to be challenged.”
Declining to answer specific questions about Baptista’s experience, citing privacy concerns, Norwegian Hospital sent out a statement.
“We strive to provide excellent quality of care and take any patient complaints very seriously,” the hospital said. “We respect a patient’s right to privacy. We also respect a patient’s right to request a transfer to another facility and work to facilitate transfers when possible and consistent with applicable law.”
According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, a patient wishing to be transferred would need to have an admitting physician at the hospital where they want to be moved to, and that the physician would need to accept the patient.
Baptista said that she has been writing letters to hospital officials as bills have come in.
“I don’t have an itemized list for charges either,” she said. “It is just labelled as ‘med.’ I regret not pushing harder, and I hope that nobody has to go through this.”
For now, Baptista will have to wait another week before her staples and sutures can be removed, and will require weeks of physical therapy before she’s back at full strength.