When healthcare is stalled, here is how I have reacted

By Ernie Williamson

The Bulletin


Be persistent.


That’s my advice for you based on my 10 years negotiating the maze we call our health care system.


Don’t be rude. Don’t be too aggressive. But you do need persistence if you want results.


My ongoing battle to repair my wheelchair illustrates the point.


I have a manual wheelchair, but years ago my doctor prescribed a power-assist device because I was having shoulder pain.


With the help of Bluetooth technology, the SmartDrive powers the chair when needed. It is a great help struggling up hills, shopping or rolling up the ramp into my van.


As years went by, I used the SmartDrive more and more. It gave me a sense of independence.


It was easier getting around, particularly on those 100-degree summer days.


It stopped working this past April. After examining the SmartDrive, the vendor said it needed a new circuit board from the manufacturer.


Getting the repair process started required Medicare approval. That, in turn, required a note from my doctor authorizing something she had signed off on years earlier. It wasn’t, after all, as if I had made a miraculous recovery and was walking again.


The vendor’s repair guy figured it would be 4-6 weeks before I had the power device back.


That seemed like a long time, but I felt encouraged when the process got off to a fast start.


Within a day or two, I received a code that would let me track the progress of the repair.


I didn’t follow the progress for several weeks, but when I did, we were stalled on Step 1, awaiting my doctor’s approval.


I made some calls. What do you know! A couple days later we were on Step 2, awaiting Medicare’s approval. Surprisingly, that happened fairly fast.


Before long, we were on Step 4. The vendor had received Medicare approval and was awaiting the part from the manufacturer.


That was weeks ago. With the finish line in sight, we again were stalled.


I called the vendor several times, and each time was told the process probably was delayed by supply chain problems. That seem logical since everything in the whole world seemed disrupted by supply chain issues.


Each time the vendor vowed to call the manufacturer to check on the repair and call me back.


Each time my phone never rang.


Weeks passed, and I grew more aggravated. Because of the heat, Covid and not having my power device, I was losing my independence … and my patience. It had become too much trouble to go anywhere.


Exasperated, I called the vendor again and asked for the name of the manufacturer. I then Googled the manufacturer’s phone number and called.


After explaining the situation, the woman on the phone asked for a few moments to look up the information. Here we go again, I thought.


Within a minute she came back on the line. “We are sorry for the delay,” she said. “We will rush that part right out to your vendor.”


“You mean it wasn’t a supply problem?” I asked.


“No” she said. “We are sorry for the delay.”


So, I am hoping the part will arrive any day now. You can bet I will call again if it doesn’t.


(Contact Ernie at williamsonernie@gmail.com. Or, write to The Bulletin, PO Box 2426, Angleton, TX. 77516)