Friday, July 24, 2009

Vacation and HIPPA

Well, I am on week 2 of my vacation. This will be the first time since November of 2003 that I haven't preached for 2 weeks in a row. It feels strange. I get up in the morning feeling like I should be working on my sermon and realize that there is no sermon to prepare. The mental rest has been nice, but not without "controversy."

When Amy and I got back from Wilmington on Tuesday evening, there was a message from the Emergency Room from Monday afternoon that I had a parishioner that wanted me there. They didn't give a name, so I called the hospital and they were unable to help me find out who it was. The next morning I called the hospital Chaplain to get some help in finding who it was. He was in a meeting and told me he would get back to me when he was free (after 2:45 PM). In the meantime, I received a phone call from a fellow pastor that let me know who the patient was. So I called the hospital and asked for a room number. I was referred to the Head Nurse who simply told me to "call the family" if I wanted any information. So I went to the hospital. I was wearing my hospital badge when I arrived and asked for the information about the room number. They told me "he was discharged from the ER on Monday."

I felt that was good news. So I went home and called his daughter. When I asked her how her dad was doing, she tearfully told me, "He passed on Monday." You can imagine how I felt. Had I known that he had died, I certainly would have handled the situation much differently. As it was, it was nearly 48 hours before the family received ANY pastoral care. I realize that hospitals have rules that they must follow, but this family had the hospital try to contact me and when I was able to get back to them, they basically hid the information that was so vital for me. How hard would have it been to tell me he had died, rather that he had been "discharged."

Anyway, I am really upset about the way I was told only half the truth of the situation and feel that it is high time that hospitals everywhere realize that the spiritual care that a pastor brings (especially in this type of a situation) HAS to be respected. The family needs it, expects it, and deserves it.

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