Is Anti-Spouse Bias the Reason for Bad Health Care?

What_To_Expect

Why are babies born at military hospitals more than twice as likely to be injured during delivery than civilian babies? Why are new mothers at a military hospital more more likely to hemorrhage after childbirth than if they delivered at a civilian hospital?

Is there something about military wives that make us more vulnerable during pregnancy?

We don’t really know. This week the New York Times reported about the lack of mandated follow-up investigations and “persistent lapses in protecting patients” in military hospitals — particularly when it comes to maternity.

“The reasons, military doctors and nurses said, are rooted in a compartmentalized system of leadership, a culture of interservice secrecy and an overall failure to make patient safety a top priority.”

As a sociologist, I’m wondering if one of the factors leading to this “overall failure” is the persistent stereotype that labels military spouses as complaining, powerless, entitled, weak, over dramatic and needy.

Does that stereotype make it more likely for military spouses to be dismissed and thus more at risk when seen in a military hospital? Especially when pregnant? No wonder some spouses are upset about possibly being pushed back into military hospitals for care.

Most of my own dealings with military hospitals have been good since childhood. I usually opt for military medicine when it is available in my area. And I know military medical staffs are full of people who work hard and do their best often in trying circumstances.

But sometimes it is the underlying, unconscious, unseen beliefs we hold that alter our behaviors. Few of us are free of that kind of bias.

And that bias against spouses exists even among other spouses. So often on SpouseBuzz we hear our own readers distancing themselves from other military spouses, “I am nothing like them.” Or “I am not the average military wife.”

But when I was delivering our youngest child while my husband was deployed, I was “them” to a T. Pregnant. Isolated. Stressed. Over committed. I was doing the best I could and faking the rest.

I had also struggled with nausea during the entire nine months of the pregnancy — which probably read as “drama” to others. It read as exhaustion and emptiness to me.

So when the nurse kept complaining about the heart monitor for my baby and how it “never works right,” I didn’t say a thing. Neither did my girlfriend, a fellow military wife.

I probably should have insisted on a different monitor. But I was in labor. I was worn down. My husband was 6,000 miles away, which was nothing unusual in that ward. So I should have stood up for my own care.

Because it turned out there was nothing wrong with that monitor. It really was showing my son was in distress. He had moved into a breech position since my visit with my obstetrician a few days before. When the doctor came to check me, he found a foot where the head should be. There was hissing in the hallway between members of the staff. Murmurings about the monitor. Significant looks.

Moments later my son was delivered by emergency C-section. He was fine. I was fine. But the air of a near miss was all around that delivery. The next day a different doctor and two administrators came to quiz me about the delivery.

I didn’t care.

I had my baby. He was fine.

Months later when my husband came home from sea and we went over the blow by blow of the delivery. “Dodged that bullet,” my husband said.

Yes. I guess. There is some risk in pregnancy. Yet part of the problem that day was that I was just another pregnant military wife with a deployed husband complaining about being sick. Would they have caught the breech earlier if my husband had been with me? Would it have been any different if I delivered in a civilian hospital?

The thing is, I don’t want military wives dodging bullets when they are pregnant. I don’t want them fighting to be taken seriously because of an unacceptable bias against military spouses especially during deployment.

That isn’t a cause to dismiss a woman’s concerns. Military life is an added layer of complexity, one that often hides a real problem. It is a cause to be a little more gentle, a little kinder, a little more curious about what could be going on.

Not every military hospital has increased risk for pregnant wives. More needs to be done to examine what they are doing right and pass that along to every hospital that deals with military wives in the most vulnerable part of their lives.

Note from managing editor Amy: I, too, experienced questionable maternity care at a military treatment facility. After a urine protein test was charted incorrectly as a 24 hour test instead of the 12 hour test it actually was, my PA insisted that I be induced a few days before my due date. But I didn’t care — my husband was deploying in a month and I wanted that baby OUT.

What is your military hospital experience?

About the Author

Jacey Eckhart
Jacey Eckhart is the former Director of Spouse and Family Programs for Military.com. Since 1996, Eckhart’s take on military families has been featured in her syndicated column, her book The Homefront Club, and her award winning CDs These Boots and I Married a Spartan?? Most recently she has been featured as a military family subject matter expert on NBC Dateline, CBS morning news, CNN, NPR and the New York Times. Eckhart is an Air Force brat, a Navy wife and an Army mom. Find her at JaceyEckhart.net.
  • guest

    Links to the physical documentation showing these “facts”? Not a link to some incendiary NYTimes article?

    • ophiolite

      There are citations in the article to the studies used to determine the military’s health care problem. Even the Pentagon spokesperson agreed there is a problem.

    • Jeremy

      How about TRICARE actually make this data public, good or bad. Informed consent is a good thing.

  • guest

    Also, as an aside, you talk negatives in maternity care. Let me share a private insurance story with you. For TWO YEARS, I endured 100’s of tests, was told I had cancer (and oddly enough luekemia at one point in time), had nodes biopsied, exploratory surgeries etc because my 5 private insurance doctors, including one specialist at Emory, couldn’t figure out what was wrong with my blood counts and why if you sneezed I bruised….they never pinned it down.

    Second visit to my first military physician and she nailed it. EXTREME vitamin D deficiency combined with acute mono. Been on supplements ever since and haven’t had a single problem. I endured pain, scars, emotional trauma of being told I probably had cancer (at 23), fatigue etc by some of the best doctors my private insurance had to offer…only to find out it’s something fully treatable. And for this pleasure I generally waited in the waiting room of the doctors office for a minimum of an hour every appointment. So no, military is not perfect…but neither are those civilian doctors you want to see. In fact a lot of them are so over booked, and under reimbursed, you are nothing more than a nuisance to them.

    And again, I reiterate, if you don’t like the insurance you can feel free to seek employment, or purchase private insurance, and sign up under your own plan, it’s not like you are “stuck” with Tricare and MTF’s. There ARE other options, most people don’t have the willpower or desire to pursue them though.

    • ophiolite

      I think you are missing the point. Controlling for other factors, including age, gender, etc, military hospitals have between 2-5% higher rates of serious injury and death than non-military hospitals.
      We all have anecdotal evidence of bad doctors, but widespread systematic issues is a whole different level of problem. BTW, waiting for an hour is nothing- I waited 6 hrs for an appt because they were overbooked and hoped not everyone would show up. I’ve waited 2 weeks for an appt because there is no room to be seen in the clinic.
      And while I have a job and I am now seen outside a MTF, not everyone has that option. It’s often difficult to get a good paying job near a military base, especially when your resume screams “I’ve moved 10x in 10 yrs and am a military spouse,” so this is not just an issue of laziness. If one can’t find employment that provides a high enough income to pay for childcare, it becomes a lose-lose for the spouse and his/her family. Moreover, many milkids have emotional problems from their service member parent being deployed the majority of their lives and from having to give up their friends every year and need to have extra parental support at home. It may not be the healthiest decision in those cases for both parents to work.
      So honestly, I think you need to check your privilege. You make it clear you don’t understand the cited study, nor the lives of military families. Even the medical community agrees military medical care is abyssmal, and what is most worrying is that the stories cited in the article are about spouses because service members can’t sue for malpractice. They just have to deal, so the real question is how bad is the care service members are getting? More importantly, my question to you is if they are getting poor quality care, are you fine with telling them they are lazy? Because the last time I checked 66.67% of Americans are unfit for military service, so who is going to do the job if they die because of medical negligence?

      • Vanessa

        Well said!!! Thank you.

      • guest

        Except that wasn’t waiting for an appointment…I HAD an appointment…I waited an hour in the waiting room past said appointment time…pretty much every..single…time…

        I’ve been a military spouse for well over a decade, has been finding a job difficult at times, sure…have I always found one…yup. You don’t want to put in the effort, then that’s your issue. Finding private insurance is ALWAYS an option. It’s not “privilege” it’s called hard work and sacrifice. Not saying the military member is lazy, not one bit, they work for it. But to hear spouses complaining about FREE healthcare when it is fully within their realm of possibility to gee…get a job and pay for their own insurance is just infuriating.

        • ophiolite

          I had an appt too. But whatever, you clearly want to set yourself apart from the rest of us so go for it.
          Did you even read the rest of my comment? Do you understand it? Lots of jobs are part-time and don’t offer health insurance. Lots of jobs don’t pay enough to cover the child care required to work, let alone cover co-pays. Would you do me the favor of getting off your high horse? It’s great that you have always found work, but that isn’t always true for everyone else. On the whole military spouses are not lazy and that you, as a military spouse, would argue they are makes your comment doubly ignorant and shameful.
          And if you meant “you” to equal me, you owe me a personal apology. I have worked 2 jobs while working on my education. People may call me a lot of things, but lazy isn’t one of them.

          • guest

            And finding a full time job, especially when you have the benefits of MyCAA, GI Bill transfers, military scholarships etc…is not really all that difficult if you chose your major correctly. Then you can get health benefits. Heck even some of those retail jobs, like Starbucks, will offer you health care coverage.

            You chose to have a child, knowing child care expenses and your employment options, I don’t feel bad if you have an issue with a job, I am assuming this is why you went back to school, so kudos, when you get done, and get a job, you can get your own private insurance, and not have to use Tricare if you do not like it. In the meantime there is always paying for private insurance. But as you pointed out there are copays that may not be able to be paid…so explain again why Tricare is so evil? And PS the ENTIRE medical community has people die and get injured by “negligence”, which is one of the reasons our private insurance costs are so high since doctors have to have insurance for getting sued by every dick jane and harry, so it’s not just limited to Tricare.

          • ophiolite

            Assumption much?
            You don’t know me. That much is painfully clear. For the record, I have a job. I also am finishing my PhD and defending it here in a couple of weeks. I don’t have children.
            What I do have is empathy for people who haven’t had the luxuries I have. I chose to pursue my career even though it’s meant that for half of my marriage my husband has been a geo-bachelor.
            But you know when you’ve been married as long as I have and you’ve witnessed your friends move to places where there isn’t work in their field, or there is licensure issues, or they have to choose between working for minimum wage and putting your kids in daycare all day to break even at the point where they were when they weren’t working, you have to kind of ask yourself how reasonable you are really being in your judgments of others choices. It would be great if you could learn similar empathy for those who haven’t had the same opportunities you have.
            And since you couldn’t read or access the NYT article cited, the problem is that MTFs have much higher rates of death or significant injuries than civilian hospitals, controlling for all other factors. The standard of care is substandard. While the article focuses on military family members, because they are allowed to publicly sue the military for malpractice, the real ramification here is that service members as well as their family members are being given substandard health care. I am not really sure how many more times I need to reiterate that before you get it.
            P.S. In the future, it would be wise to not make assumptions without facts. That seems to be the underlying problem with your comments. Best of luck. I hope you find some of the peace and empathy you need in your life.

          • guest

            We live in the good ol USA oph..if someone hasn’t had the “opportunities” as you put it, then they haven’t made the sacrifices to reach and obtain those opportunities. You GeoBach’d…getting your degree, you have a job…you sacrificed for it to EARN it. As did I in a very similar situation. As Jefferson stated it most eloquently “I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.”

            I do not have empathy for people, military or not, that are not willing to sacrifice to make their personal life better. If they want to whine and complain about military healthcare not being sufficient for them, then as a spouse make the SACRIFICE to provide better health care for your family. Sitting on your hands, complaining, and waiting for someone else to fix it (which is apparently a great theme nowadays)…isn’t going to do anything…for anyone.

        • hc.conn

          Most jobs provide healthcare for your spouse and children. It’s so weird to me, coming from an civilian area where it was considered a very good thing if you made enough money for your wife to stay home with the kids for their first 5 years if she wanted to, to be thrust into this uniquely military idea that for some reason a married couple should have completly separate jobs and lives or they are too dependent on their soldier. If I worked outside the home my husband and I would be paying someone else to care for our children and keep our house clean and we would be splitting the things that are now my sole responsibility like budgeting and bill paying. Neither of us wants that and of course when you consider a job you consider your family and the benefits for you all as a group. You work and live together as a unit when you are married.

        • Shosh

          I have a full-time job. Always have. Work in management at a medical office in private practice. There is no health insurance offered by this employer, or by many other small businesses, who can’t afford to provide benefits like that and stay in business. This isn’t a personal failing on my part. It is not easy to find work with full benefits when you can’t tell am employer how long you will be there. If you disagree, either you are working a government job or you haven’t PCSed much. Tricare has provided some wonderful care at MTFs over the years, and I have absolute horror stories. Most recently, a doc told me I haven’t had four miscarriages, I’ve only had one. She left me half naked in a hallway for ten minutes after trying twice to get me to cancel an appointment I was already in an exam room for. I have been accused of being a drug seeker when I went to the ER with an abscess in my throat that was so enlarged that it was blocking 50% of my airway and preventing me from eating or drinking. By the time I was finally looked at and the abscess drained, it was three days later and I was so dehydrated that I ended up hospitalized and on Demerol and rehydrating IV fluids for three days. The whole time I was never offered a shower or any personal hygiene measures, like a toothbrush. The left the IV in one location until it leaked and puffed up my hand like the Michellin Man. Just a small sampling, folks…

  • hc.conn

    I definitely prefer to see a civilian doctor. I’m pregnant with my 3rd baby and it will be the only one that I’ve had at a military hospital, and that’s only because we are stationed overseas. The quality of care I received at both civilian hospitals was much better than the care I receive now.

  • ophiolite

    I don’t think it’s just a pregnant spouse thing. I had horrible abdominal pain for 5 years and was told it was (1) all in my head, (2) pelvic inflammatory disease because I must have cheated on my spouse (even though this is not true and STD test was clean) and (3) I was just trying to get attention because my spouse was heading to Afghanistan. So finally, after I came in every day for a month and complained to CO of hospital and generally raised bloody hell because I could no longer hold food down, they dumped me on a civilian NP at the hospital who sent me for a HIDA scan and determined I had a non-functional gall bladder. 24-hr later I had surgery and viola the pain stopped.
    So I think this is a crappy medical care thing at some hospitals.

  • hc.conn

    Though I don’t think that was because of a bias towards spouses as much as the generally inferior care provided by the military, as demonstrated by the VA for instance. The wait times are attrocious and my doctor has told me on multiple occasions when I try to bring up more than one problem at an appointment that I will have to make a seperate appointment for each problem I’m having.

  • Wayne Perry

    The problem is MOAA is too busy fabricating numbers to get their hands dirty for these real life issues.

  • Dragoneyes

    I’ve seen the way my husband was treated while staying at Walter Reed for a major surgery he needed and I really don’t want that place to handle me when I get pregnant. I am on Tricare Standard and I am hoping I can deliver through a civilian hospital…

    • Fran

      What is now Walter Reed then it was called National NAVAL Medical Center. I was send by a doctor down at Andrews Air Force Base hospital. the MALE doctor put me on Depo once a month for almost a year because I was bleeding. Mind you I WAS ACTIVE DUTY and not a civilian. He treated me like I had no clue about my body and then I was milking the system. I asked to see a different doctor for a second opinion at NNMC. The doctor took a look at me and said that I should be taken off the Depo and she had schedule me surgery. Here I had scar tissue pulling on my ovary and that I had fiberois. So don’t tell me that they treat ONLY civilian women this way when in fact they treat both military women and civilian the same.

  • Jennifer

    My perspective on maternity care in the military is that there are two tracks of care, leading to vastly different levels of quality of care.

    The first track is the “routine” obstetric care. I use quotes for two reasons: 1) no woman considers her own pregnancy to be routine, and 2) the physicians don’t always address concerns adequately, dismissing the possibility that the pregnancy is not, in fact, routine. I agree with the writer that these women get short shrift. They are all too often viewed as complainers and attention-seekers by the military medical establishment. As the dependent child of a deceased military member, I learned early that the only way to be taken seriously was to have your military sponsor (preferably a high-ranking officer) accompany you to appointments in his uniform.

    The second track is vastly different–like night is from day. You get to go there when you have what the medical establishment in the military considers to be a “real” problem. And I did go there when it was discovered that I was Rh sensitized (due to a series of mistakes made in civilian medical settings), and was carrying a baby with a life-threatening problem. Let me tell you: they pulled out ALL the stops. I got state-of-the art care in a military setting, and my providers were caring, empathetic professionals. Of course, I did have to drive 3 1/2 hours each way throughout the pregnancy to take advantage of that amazing care! But I had complete confidence in the quality of care I received throughout pregnancy, labor and delivery. That baby is now 21!

    It’s truly sad that the military medical establishment hasn’t found a way to deliver compassion, empathy, and quality of care to the most routine of medical care.

    • jacey_eckhart

      You have a really good point here. I think the problem is not with getting big time emergency treatment. The problem is within routine care. Someone ought to study that!

    • This is an excellent distinction. My first baby was delivered in a military hospital and I was a routine, healthy patient. I was 28 (and the nurses told me how nice it was to have an “older” mom on the ward) and just about everything that hospital could have overlooked, got overlooked. It was an all around horrible experience that very nearly became a life threatening experience. My husband was deployed for my second baby and I went home to stay with my family for most of the pregnancy, which meant switching to Standard, so that one was born in the civilian experience. The whole experience was a complete 180 from what I’d had before. By my third baby I was 35 — aka, “advanced maternal age” and the care I received as a non-routine patient was wonderful (though one nurse did actually refer to me as “elderly”.)

      • MORE…
        Personally, the biggest problem with the system, IMHO, is that we usually have young moms and dads who don’t have any experience with what maternity care and delivery is supposed to be like and often they don’t have relatives there with them who might be more experienced. My husband was great during our first baby’s birth — but he was just as clueless as I was and so he made for a lousy advocate. I clearly recall feeling like no one was listening and, reading this post, now I too wonder if that was because I was “just a dramatic spouse”. My solution? Offer doulas to all military moms, especially the ones who have a spouse deployed. I hired a doula for a my 2nd and 3rd births and paid her $400 fee myself — truly the best money I’ve ever spent. For that tiny fee I had someone by my side, the whole time, advocating for me in the same language the doctors and nurses understood and respected. Everyone should have that.

    • And one more reply… :-)
      You are so right about having the service member go with you. I’ve had multiple instances of waiting for hours in a clinic after I’d arrived early for my appointment. Each time, when I got my husband to drop by in uniform they managed to see me right away. Once, during my first pregnancy, I was scheduled to get the Rhogam shot because I’m O neg and my husband is O pos. I waited for 3 hours and was the only patient in the waiting room. I kept checking to see what was taking so long and the desk ladies kept telling me to be patient. Finally my husband showed up and asked to speak to the “green suiter” (NCOIC). Turns out the desk ladies had been so wrapped up in discussing their weekend plans they’d never bothered to let the docs know that I was there — and so I had “missed” my appointment.

  • Tevera

    This is not just an issue with maternity care or for spouses… My husband was told he had a “sever ankle sprain” and given crutches. After 7 years of fighting that diagnosis and just being told to go to physical therapy… They finally sent us to a pediatrist where they discovered bone shards, torn ligaments, and permanent damage. Even after the corrective surgery, he will never be 100%. We are thankful that he didn’t lose his job over this and have adapted to his limited mobility issues, but nobody (family or our vets) should just be dismissed.

    I personally spent the day fasting once in order to receive bloodwork for a test that was never ordered. I truly appreciated how the nurses adovacated for me in that situation, especially when I was experience low blood sugar and turned vile. I know it wasn’t intentional and after many hours the problem was resolved but I truly feel for those in that position. Even the doctor called to apologize that evening, but I held no ill will. I know they are doing the best they can with their resources. Nobody, especially in this field, wants to let people down, but an extra dose of caution is recommended.

  • Jessica Lynn

    I delivered my baby (and received care during those nine months and after) at a military base overseas and I feel I received excellent care. Sure, there were hiccups along the way, but that could’ve happened anywhere. My husband was deployed for seven of those months, too. When there were questions about my pregnancy and delivery, the four doctors on staff all had a pow-wow to figure out solutions. I never once felt discriminated upon because I was a spouse, and I’d hope this particular post doesn’t scare spouses even more than they need to be when (if they’re OCONUS) delivering a baby in a military hospital and possibly without their husbands present.

  • AGRspouse

    As the spouse of a recently retired AGR, military families aren’t treated much better in the remote, civilian world. We are treated worse than welfare patients(not that welfare patients shouldn’t be treated properly) I think part of the problem is staff burn out–they get tired of the druggies and scammers. Unfortunately, that leads some to treat everybody like dirt. Is it a problem of overwork?? Too many patients to too few nurses and doctors? Perhaps. It could also be a “superior” attitude on the medical personels’ side–they think that they are smarter and better than some lowly milspouse. (to heck with the fact that a lot of milspouses have degrees)

    • ophiolite

      IDK, I’ve been in remote for 5 years and it’s been awesome! I mean seriously.
      There was the one woman who wanted to deny me birth control because she was all against it, but other than her, I’ve had nothing but great experiences with civilian doctors–except when it comes to mental health care.

  • jojo613

    I concur it’s not just maternity care. We had two instances with my son. The first, my son had a prolonged internal yeast infection that was so severe he was bleeding from the anus. He got the infection, because he was on 8 rounds of antibiotics. I BEGGED for relief. I was told that I was to blame, because I didn’t change his pants quickly enough. I was told that he probably did have the infection, but they didn’t want to do the test. He was treated off base, three weeks later, he was potty trained (it affected his behavior)!

    Second issue, my son has had allergic reactions to shots. They will not accept the ER doctor that diagnosed the reaction– he nearly died, and the reaction was within HOURS of the shot. I can’t take my son to the CDC or FCC or the Youth Center, and cannot go back to work, because the clinic doesn’t recognize an off-base doctor’s note, nor do they recognize parental observation (he swelled and had raised welts). Instead I am labelled as a Jenny McCarthy wannabe, because he happens to have autism along with chronic yeast issues and allergic reactions.

  • 5kidsmom

    I delivered 3 out of my 5 children in military facilities. If my military delivery experiences had been my first – I may have had second thoughts about having other children.

    That said, several years ago I had a tumor in my breast. The military surgeon was really attentive, an exception to my 30 years spent in this system. He even called me at home on a weekend for a followup! It was a comforting thing, especially because my husband was deployed at that point. The point is – this system is just as full of good and bad practitioners – they are all human.

  • jacey_eckhart

    I really like these stories of military medical personnel who go the extra mile. I hope they know that they make such a difference–we need more people like that in the world!

  • Meadow

    We went through IVF for our second child. At
    18 weeks, we where told there was a complication. She had a cleft lip, VSD (hole in her heart) possible cleft palate, possible downs, and did we know that the state of WA only offers abortions up to 20
    Weeks?
    That was Madagen. Thankfully enough, that was our last visit there.
    VSD healed thankfully on its own. No downs,
    Dr’s told us we would have to have her at a hospital with a stage 4 NICU. Which wasn’t local for us. I told them it was too far, they needed to be prepared for me to have her there. Womens intuition.
    Two deployments during the pregnancy, husband came back the night she was born.
    At the hospital I said. Drs agreed to was to dilated. Because this was going to be the hospitals first cleft born baby, everyone in OBG helped. Everyone wanted to learn (go figure, training hospital) and help. I went all la natural and 45 minutes later she was there. And even with the cleft lip and palate, she was okay and we never flew out. It could have been much worse. But everyone was on hands and helping. I am thankful.

  • pam thompson

    I went to my local Naval Hosp. ER, per instructions from my bariatric surgeon. He is 88miles one way from me. We had gone out of town for the weekend and on Saturday after eating a hamburger, I got severe abdominal pain. When we got home on Sun. I called my bariatric dr. He told me to go now and have them call him. I went and it took forever to be seen. I had to go for xrays. I was told I was impacted and needed an enama. Nothinghappened. That Dr. went off duty. “both by the way were civilians drs.” The next guy made me do a ct scan. Well since noone had called him, my dr. called them. He asked what the scan said, and the reply he got was, “I don’t know I don’t know how to read a scan”. My dr. told him to pack me up and send me to the local civilian hospital to see a surgeon. He said he didn’t know how to do that, when 30 min. earlier they sent a toddler out, due to an asthma attack. He told the idiot to tell me to be in his office at 9am the next morning. Still in agony we drove the 88 miles and by 11:30am I was in surgery for a bowel herniation.

  • K

    I had a baby in a military hospital in a different country. I had an amazing team when it came time to deliver. The only nurse I could have done without having there was a civilian. So just because it’s a “military” hospital doesn’t mean every person checking your monitor or administering meds is in the military. Any human with poor work ethic, lack of compassion or just a general inability to properly do their job will put lives at risk if they are employed in a hospital. My son and I currently have the same doctor in “Family Practice” and he is amazing !!! This article sounds poorly written and one sided.

  • Janice

    You know what’s scary? “Harm rate – unknown” (from NYT article) I’ll tell you the harm rate. Ask the families that didn’t “dodge the bullet” the ones that have to raise kids without a parent, or the ones missing a kid or raising a kid with severe problems. The people that know the “never events” aren’t really never. To be fair this isn’t a TriCare issue this is an MTF issue. There are bad doctors at civilian and military hospitals alike, the difference is military doctors/hospitals aren’t reporting problems so they can be fixed and MTF users aren’t aware of the hospital’s or doctor’s reputation. I’m on Prime and I’ve had bad doctors and great doctors. What’s made the difference for me is I advocate for myself. And I pray I’m never in a situation where I’m too sick or hurt to clearly think and advocate for myself without someone else there to do it for me, because I’m scared of what could happen that day.

  • Erin

    My older daughter suffered birth injuries and now has mild cerebral palsy. It was due to malpractice by the military hospital. I had faith that they would take care of us, so I didn’t question when they let me continue to labor when thought her heart rate kept dropping.

  • Wilda

    My theory is that military hospitals see so many horrible, dramatic injuries that when you show up with all your limbs attached and no arterial blood spouting from somewhere, they feel like you’re making too much ado.
    In my experience emergency treatment at military hospitals is very good – as long as you have something severe, they really excel.
    But pity you if you don’t have something showy. I am now permanently disabled because I was shrugged off again and again, I could bring all the civilian doctor’s notes and letters I wanted – “There’s no use in you coming back here”. Now I know I should not have walked in, but have them carry me on a stretcher screaming.

    So by their reactions, the military hospitals actually encourage us to be the ‘drama queens’ they later reprimand us for being.

    • dearly

      I have that same thought process. My son struggled for 3 months with an inflamed gallbladder written off as a virus. When he finally had bile leaking (we didn’t know this, but he was very ill to the point of not being able to walk) I called a damn ambulance and he got taken care of after being carried in the ER. But up to that point,we were blown off.

  • Kristen

    I personally had terrible experience with a military hospital. I showed many signs of problems and pre eclampsia with my first pregnancy. I kept going in and my doc literally laughed at me and said I didn’t know what I was talking about. It was my first pregnancy so I was being “dramatic”. I felt like something was wrong so did my family. I woke up one morning gushing blood and called the hospital. Told them and they said its prob nothing but u could come in if I wanted. I went in and once I finally got back there I was swarmed with doctors. I apparently had placenta abruption. So instead of rushing me back they studied me for 6 hrs til my baby was in distress. I bled out so long that I had to have blood transfusions. I remember going them training on me. At one point haveing a teaching book open on my lap to figure out what port to put meds in. They told my husband to go say goodbye because it was looking bad. It wasn’t til my fourth day there that they actually told me what happened. I had to ask. Luckily my son and I are ok now. But it has forever put me off to military hospitals. We even switched to standard just so we didn’t have to go back. I’m not saying they are all bad but I’ve heard and seen to many times the terrible care they give. Your just a number to them.

  • M_J_

    I have to admit, when I initially read the original article in the NY Times the other day, I was conflicted. On one hand, there have been so many times that the MTF has saved my behind. One time in particular, I went to the ER (while my neighbor was watching my kids who were ALSO ill because, of course, hubby was gone at the time) and found out I had, a sinus infection, urinary tract infection AND strep….all rolled into one. The ER doc at the MTF wanted me to stick around but I had two kids who needed me. He fave me IV antibiotics, liquid pain killer so it wouldn’t hurt to swallow pill and let me go home. The only stipulation was that I come in by the end of his shift, which was noon the next day.

    I returned, with kids in tow this time because it was their turn to see the pediatrician. That ER doc was so conscientious that instead of allowing me too drive clear across town, he told me that he was going to check out my kids and see what he could do for them so that we could ALL go home and get some rest. That is AMAZING in my book, and I will never forget that.

    On the other hand, that type of experience wasn’t what I would call the ‘norm’ of my experiences with MTF’s. I could go through 15 years worth of stories, each as disheartening as the next.

    What I do know is that I agree with this article and I agree with the Times. I am glad that both shed some light on this dysfunctional system. With the proposal of VA patients transferring their care to MTF being considered, the MTF will need additional checks and balances. The system is already overcrowded, which allows for one too many mistakes. Add the already burdened VA system to merge with the MTF’s WITHOUT oversight, accountability and the adherence to safety policies and procedures….well, that’s just a disaster waiting to happen.

    I am thankful to have insurance at this time…my daughter is having some lung problems and she is able to see a specialist without breaking my bank account. However when it comes to MTF’s….well, sometimes you get what you pay for. Let’s just hope they straighten up and fly right with a little limelight action coming their way.

  • Guest

    I wonder how much of the problem is that often the doctor treating you isn’t an actual OB. I’m currently pregnant and being seen at our local MTF. I was told I could go with a midwife or a random resident. Not an OB resident, just a resident. Sure they’ve had basic training, but they don’t have the experiences of an actual OB, who might be able to pick up on issues sooner.

  • dearly

    I was pregnant and alone at Bragg- again. Has second child alone in Germany, with my fellow Army Spouse as help.

    Went to the ER for what I thought was a bladder infection. Waited a long time, but that is the deal, right? Sigh.

    As my doc was chatting with me and giving me my meds, another doc wandered by the room. My doc hailed him, and said: “Welcome back! Bet you are glad to be back from deployment!.” To which the wanderer replied: “Not really. At least I cared about the people I was taking care of.” He said it in the worst, most bitter voice. I was floored. The doc that was treating me was silent, and the other doc kept moving.

    How disgusting. I will always remember that doc’s hideous voice and terrible words.

  • Guest

    This Definitely is not a pregnant military spouse issue, this is a military provides a substandard care all around issue. Us spouses have a choice to be seen at an MTF in most cases, AD does not and that makes me sad and scared for those who do not have the choice. I’ve seen Ptmouth Naval totally botch a circumcision, ive seen them diagnose a sailor with mild indigestion when they had appendicitis. And the worse at Langley mistake a pregnant woman as having an unviable baby and perform a DNC. The question is why are they allowed to treat their so poorly, what makes the doctors at MTFs so careless than the civilian docs. Why is AD not allowed to use for malpractice?

  • notlikeme

    As odd as this may sound, I was a person on civilian health care for 38 years, the military health care beats that hands down. Military healthcare has been by far better than anything I ever had outside of the military. It is easy to get an appointment, cheap, and the doctors are by far more willing to listen to what you have to say than any of the doctors I had outside. I am sure there are cases of poor or mistreatment, but that happens everywhere because people expect miracles from doctors and doctors just sometimes aren’t able to deliver.

  • notlikeme

    Also, what I am seeing on this thread is a lot of anecdotal evidence. If you go to the doctor regularly and change doctors as often as military people do, eventually you are going to have an issue with one or more doctors. Your chances of problems on the outside are the same as having problems on the inside of the system. For example, there is a person who mentions gallbladder problems in a previous comment and how they were solved by a civilian doctor and not the military doctors, it is my contention that she/he got lucky because they could have just as easily been sent to a specialist on the outside who didn’t believe them, either, or who could have misdiagnosed them, or the operation could have just not worked for them because removing the gallbladder doesn’t always work. This person hailed the outside doc as a perfect and the best when in reality, the outside doc has surely had patients that the same procedure didn’t work and cases that they were not able to help. Most people in the medical world understand that even the best of doctors sometimes can’t help and although their is a lot of skill involved, medicine is still has a lot of mystery and luck involved.