UPDATED: A Growing Trend in Medicine

By: Tina Stein
By: Tina Stein

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Part I
Part II
Part III

Part III
ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- If you're a baby boomer caring for elderly parents or in that age bracket yourself, it takes great planning to prevent the government from dictating your life. Tonight, we wrap up our special report, "A Growing Trend in Medicine" with the story of one local family's fight to keep a public guardian from taking over and why some say they should be avoided at all costs.

Dolores Bedin's family wants her final years to be lived in comfort.

So they're building an addition on her Rockford home and making it wheelchair accessible. Dolores' body may resemble the 86-year-old she is, but to her daughter, her mind makes her the Italian crocodile.

“When I see her do that (referring to Dolores’ ability to list all 44 U.S. Presidents) and see how smart she is, how competent and how in control she is in herself to have someone characterize my mother like that," says Janet.

Characterized as incompetent, and Janet absent. Janet says Chicago's Northwestern Memorial Hospital used those words in Winnebago County Court to argue why Dolores should be discharged and a public guardian control Dolores' care. Dolores, who has inoperable pancreatic cancer, had been in the hospital about two months and felt too sick to leave.

"I didn't want a day to go by without seeing my mom," says Janet.

Janet feared her power of attorney would be revoked, so she took Dolores home. This prevented Attorney Sherri Rudy from taking over. She's the Public Guardian for Winnebago and Boone Counties.

"If there's concern that an individual is not getting proper care, proper nutrition, proper medical care, that will then be a request for our office to step in," says Rudy.

Rudy is also Public Administrator and currently oversees a combined 39 cases or "wards,” most of whom are elderly.

"It's overwhelming, it really is. In fact we're hoping to get some help," says Rudy.

The Administrator's services are paid from a ward's bank account. If there's no money for these services or medical care, she has the ability to sell their home.

“The most terrible, terrible things could happen to you under guardianship court. Your elderly parent could be removed from their home and put into a nursing home where they don't want to be, they could be drugged in that nursing home, sometimes unnecessarily. Their property could be seized," says Annie McKenna, Spokeswoman for the National Association to Stop Guardian Abuse.

To prevent falling under a public guardian's care, NASGA recommends aging parents give their children a durable power of attorney and sign it before they get too old. Renew it over the years so it cannot be discredited in the future.

"She has been shrouded with this disease and this event where they've tried to steal more time away from me being with my mother by dividing us and separating us," says Janet.

Bedin is especially frustrated because it wasn't until after her court hearing did she learn a patient advocate reported Dolores is competent and the hospital's only interest was sending her home.

Janet says after seeing that report, she tried getting the order vacated, but the judge refused. She says she has no plans to file suit against Northwestern Memorial Hospital at this time and just wants us to be aware of her family's situation. I tried contacting the hospital for comment and to see if anything has changed since Dolores Bedin was a patient, but my calls were not returned.

Part II
ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- Dr. Larry Verfurth works in one of the fastest growing medical specialties in the nation. He's a hospitalist, which is a doctor whose specialty is hospital efficiency. Verfurth is one of 15 at Rockford Memorial Hospital.

"Professionally, it's very rewarding," he says.

And attractive to those young in their careers, since hospitalists are never on-call.

"Typically you're seeing a lot of people who are straight out of their residency training who are going into hospitalist work," says University of Illinois College of Medicine Dean Dr. Martin Lipsky.

That's the case at RMH. Most hospitalists there are in their late 30's early 40's. Their job is to make you well enough to go home.

"The longer you're in the hospital, greater chances something could go wrong. We could give multiple medications, there's a lot of sick people in a hospital. So the sooner we could get you out of the hospital, it's better for you." says Dr. Larry Verfurth, Director of Adult Hospital Services at Rockford Memorial Hospital.

It's this argument drawing criticism from the Bedin family of Rockford.

"I just don't want anyone to go through what we went through, it was a hellish nightmare," says Janet Bedin.

Eighty-six-year-old Dolores Bedin has inoperable pancreatic cancer and was recently kicked out of Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.

"The hospitalist said I saw her get up from her bed to the washroom with no walker or assistance, so she's ready to go home," says Janet Bedin.

"Liar," responded Dolores Bedin.

Daughter Janet Bedin says this note made Dolores ineligible to get Medicare funded rehab. She didn't feel ready to leave, so she stayed. That is, until the hospital threatened to revoke Janet's power of attorney and turn Dolores over to Winnebago County.

"I was beaten down and the fear of you're going to lose your mother and you don't know which way it's going to go, freezes you," says Janet.

Adding to the aggravation, Janet says she hand-picked all of her mom's doctors. None of whom could get involved, leaving a stranger's opinion the one that sticks.

"When you have a hospitalist, it's even more important for you, family to be involved in the care and know your own health care," says Dr. Lipsky.

And if a report doesn't sound right, Lipsky says speak up immediately. Only four remaining Rockford Health Systems doctors see patients in the hospital. So we'll most likely be treated by a hospitalist at RMH. The hospital is their specialty, a challenging one that deals with varying degrees of illness.

"They should expect the same level of care. What they'd expect from their regular doctor, they should expect from us," says Dr. Verfurth.

Hospitalists are growing in popularity since fewer primary care doctors are visiting patients in the hospital due to time and financial constraints.

At RMH, hospitalists are supposed to introduce themselves as one.
They typically doesn't let patients opt out of their care. But those who don't feel comfortable with a particular hospitalist can request a different one.

All Rockford hospitals use hospitalists and RMH plans to add even more in the future. As for the Bedin's, Dolores was threatened to have a public guardian control her care all because of events triggered by that hospitalist report.

Tomorrow night at ten, we'll examine what could go wrong when in a public guardian's care and how to prevent loved ones from even reaching that point.

Part I
ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- Time is more precious these days for Janet Bedin. Especially after learning she lost five months with her mom Dolores.

"If my mom didn't get nauseous that day, maybe we would have never known," she says.

Never known, she's dying. In September, a hernia sent 86-year-old Dolores to a Rockford hospital. That's when Janet says they learned Dolores has inoperable pancreatic cancer. How they found out? A cat scan taken at Chicago's Northwestern Memorial Hospital months earlier, in April.

"The hospital has known information my mother is terminally ill, which cut into the quality time we could have spent with her and the planning time," says Janet.

"It was like I was hit by a ton of bricks to know I have cancer," added Dolores.

"I encourage patients to learn their test results whether they're normal or abnormal, don't assume hearing nothing means they're normal," says Dr. Martin Lipsky, Dean of the University of Illinois College of Medicine.

Lipsky says unfortunately communication errors happen all of the time. And with any tests, call to get results within a week. He recommends aging parents keep a list of medications in their wallets, along with diagnosis, allergies, and for heart patients, an old copy of their EKG.

"It's important for family members to be very visible in the care of patients," he says.

Lipsky suggests children get a power of attorney for health care. Janet has that right, and it was a battle to keep it.

In a rare move, Northwestern Memorial Hospital took her to court to get that authority revoked. Dolores had already been in the hospital two months and didn't feel well enough to leave. So the hospital threatened to have a Public Guardian take over.

"How could you say to me I don't have my mother's best interest at heart," says Janet.

Like most daughters, Janet didn't want to lose her mom so she took her home. Janet is now juggling her career and caring for her dying mother.

The Bedin's are now stuck paying for extensive medical bills because Medicare won't cover Dolores' rehab. Janet says that's all because of what a hospitalist wrote in his report. A hospitalist is a doctor whose specialty is the hospital. Tomorrow on 23 News at Ten, we'll tell you about a growing trend of hospitalists handling our care while admitted and what you need to know about this change in the industry.

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  • by Mrs. Frankel Location: Washington, D.C. on Feb 6, 2011 at 08:05 PM
    Please Winnebago Joe Brusceto investigate this outrageous crime against an elderly mother who was not given her diagnosis for 6 months by your State of' Illinois wealthiest hospital who not only has tax allowances as a non profit saving millions but violated elder rights. We are going to have to draft the daughter who has had courage to standup to the attorneys and doctors who tried to bully her. Maybe she can run on the Democratic, Republican or Tea Party ticket and should be in public office for doing what is right instead of afraid of the arrogance of doctors or attorneys who are full of themselves. I can assure you this piece has been sent around on the Hill and the mother reciting all 44 presidents and defined by Northwestern as incompetent has caused a stir here. Call State's Atty Bruscato at a number listed 815-319-4700 to inquire if it has been investigated what are the results as community members and Americans you have the right to ask for investigations.
  • by NASGA member Location: Illinois on Feb 4, 2011 at 01:36 PM
    On Elder Abuse Winnebago County State's Attorney Joe Bruscato says: 'That's why he launched an Elder Abuse division to better track these cases and make sure the punishments are stiff.' It's not only families who take advantage of society's vulnerable for example.........how about States Attorney Bruscato charging NORTHWESTERN HOSPITAL, Chicago, with elder abuse in the Dolores Bedin case? Ms. Bedin lives in fear, she has been harmed; she is forever changed by the actions of NW Hospital threatening to stip Janet of power of attorney with a guardianship takeover. Dolores has no chance to recover due to her terminal illness. Shame on you Northwestern Hospital you deserve to be held responsible and accountable for your actions and inactions.
  • by very very concerned Location: ditto at large on Feb 3, 2011 at 09:57 PM
    I saw the State's Attorney tonight speak on Elder Abuse in the story that aired tonight. Someone should contact the Elder Abuse division they said is set up. Is this heartbreaking crime by a wealthy hospital/attorneys being investigated?
  • by very concerned Location: at large on Feb 1, 2011 at 06:29 PM
    The JCAHO should be reviewing this case for quality of care issues in failing to report the original cancer diagnosis and any issues related to discharge without apporpriate rehab services. Nursing notes document on every shift a patients activity, a doctor's word is not the only evidence. The power of attorney has the right to inspect the hospital records for free under HIPAA laws.
  • by Fed Up In Cook County Location: Cook County on Jan 27, 2011 at 07:41 PM
    Reports of people present in the courthouse claim that Amy McCarty, the atty representing Northwestern Hospital, was inappropriately cruel to a loving daughter. All to create a contested case and gain financially. Perhaps Northwestern is not at fault, and trusted a non-trustworthy attorney to help with a situation, not knowing that guardianship fraud would be the result. The FBI needs to know about the collusion and guardianship fraud that is occuring in Cook County. This is not an isolated case. We have written documentation of financial exploitation, deception, inappropriate removal of family members, restriction of family members, Medicaid Fraud/Medicare Fraud, and insider real estate trading to the detriment of the wards. www.probatesharks.com WE invite all serious investigators to contact us. www.probatesharks.com
  • by Triple Concerned Location: Joliet on Jan 26, 2011 at 12:01 PM
    I am with "concerned" and frightened to know what this mother & daughter escaped the hands of hospitalists and guardiansists. It is like a hand over if you asked too many questions you are sent away. No one should be subjected to this cruelty even animals have the Humane Society to help them. Where is the Humane help here? It struck me the daughter in court and how awful to be lowered to this so the mother won't be separated from her help. Does Northwestern and their attorneys have a conscience? They already took valuable 6 mos of the mother's life by not telling her she had pancreatic cancer from the the CT results. Can't believe they messed up the test results making her lose time and then tried to make the mother seem incompetent and use germs in the hospital as the fault of the daughter? Separating the mother from her own daughter in the last months of her life is inhumane just because the daughter wanted her mother to go to rehab?
  • by Concerned Location: Barrington on Jan 25, 2011 at 02:46 PM
    This story scared me so much I decided to find out more about hospitalists. I was especially appalled when the hospitalist interviewed tried to spin the problem and say patients and family need to check up on test results - as if the Bedin family’s made the mistake instead of Northwestern. Some of my friends said they’d dealt with hospitalists as early as 2002 – and not happily. They felt like they were rushed, juggled too many cases, and damaged the doctor/patient relationship. From comments posted, it appears many in the medical community itself may be feeling likewise. It’s outrageous that anyone would have to defend her mother from a hostile take-over via a proposed guardianship and that Northwestern would manufacture innuendo and outright false statements. I hope advocates for both good healthcare and against bad guardianship can join together in the common cause of protecting innocent and vulnerable people like the Bedins from this happening to anyone ever again.
  • by tom Location: machesney on Jan 25, 2011 at 08:18 AM
    Has anyone called there Illinois reps to try and get them to join the repeal of the healthcare law,at this point I dont think Illinois is on that list.If the healthcare law takes total effect this problem is going to get oh so much worse,its what you dont know that is going to hurt you.All these comments are very true and nice that your opinion has been heard,but really whats in the healthcare law Obamacare is what you really should be scared of,do you think they are doing this because they want to,or this is the way it will be when the healthcare bill totally takes effect.You have seen minimal changes now just wait till that takes effect.Maybe Illinois should join that fight to repeal it.If your really concerned about this,I would look into the repeal,or your feelings are going to be hurt worse.Does the not knowing whats in the healthcare bill concern anyone,it should,because if we do not get it repealed this will be a way of life.And there will be no changeing it.
  • by KD Location: New York on Jan 24, 2011 at 05:12 AM
    Just wondering why this matter isn't getting more exposure? A friend of mine from Chicago put me on to this - otherwise I'd have no idea. Have any other channels or better still, local politicians gotten involved yet? If not - maybe somebody should find a way. I'd hate to be facing this when my parent's turn comes around. Dealing with loss is surely bad enough without having to deal with all this BS.
  • by Private Practice Doc at NW Location: Chicago on Jan 22, 2011 at 09:13 PM
    We initiated a Federal suit against Northwestern because of hospitalist doctors handling our patients in the hospital setting. The Federal attorneys did not take it over when in fact there was a conflict of interest. Chicago Crains article December 2008 and August 2010. Pvt Doc are being diluted and will no longer have a direct relationship with our patients, it will be hospitalist doctors just out of residency with no neurological or psychiatric training not to mention no patient private practice. How does Northwestern have tax exempt status obligating it to absorb costs for the needy when it harasses an elderly female patient who clearly did not get her CT scan results and had no idea she had cancer until she was sick and went to the ER 6 months later? The Tax Exempt status of Northwestern for federal, state and local taxes saving them millions should be REVOKED not the daughter's power of attorney. They have been the victims of what we have banned together to have investigated.
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