Injured teenagers caught in possible ‘turf war’
April 9, 2010
Two Florida parents of injured skiers at Park City Mountain Resort say the ski clinic there downplayed the services of the Park City Medical Center to them, which they believe hampered the care their girls received.
Lori Booker’s 13-year-old daughter broke both bones in her forearm on March 28. The girl’s friend injured her ankle in the same accident which involved a runaway snowboard. The friend’s father, Bill Higgins, was on the mountain with the youth and accompanied them to the University of Utah-run ski clinic near the First Time lift.
Booker, who stayed in Florida, says she spoke with a woman at the clinic whose name she never learned about her daughter’s injuries. Booker says the woman was insistent on securing payment, but would not accept her UnitedHealthcare insurance. She asked for a credit card number four times, Booker said.
Fearing the worst about her daughter’s injuries, and hoping a larger facility might accept her insurance, she inquired about where else her daughter could be sent. She said the woman was emphatic the daughter needed to be treated at the ski clinic.
"Everything that was told to me didn’t sound right, didn’t make sense. I wanted the best possible care for my daughter," she said.
So after Booker hung up the phone she began searching the Internet and making phone calls on her own to inquire about larger facilities in the area. Once she learned that Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City was only 30 minutes away, she arranged an ambulance herself to have her daughter taken there.
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But in the midst of her search she also learned of the Park City Medical Center.
Higgins said he recalls the person at the "front office" telling Booker there wasn’t anybody on staff at the hospital that could address this issue, and that everybody there was "on call."
Booker said she was told the hospital could not help with her daughter’s injury, didn’t handle orthopedic injuries and didn’t treat children.
At a later date she spoke with Rob Allen, head of the Intermountain Healthcare-run Park City Medical Center. She says he told her they did accept her insurance, do handle broken bones, and do see pediatric patients.
Booker said she would have preferred her daughter been sent immediately to the Park City Medical Center only two miles away. She’s still furious and has complained to University of Utah Clinics administrators.
"They didn’t put the patient first. They didn’t put my baby first," she said. "If changes aren’t made, then what we went through was for nothing."
Higgins said it was a horrific experience.
"I don’t feel I was led in the way you’d want to be treated if it was your children," he said.
Amy Roberts, spokesperson for the Park City Medical Center, said the facility has a positive working relationship with the clinic and the entire University of Utah health-care system. They often coordinate to provide the best care to patients, she said.
Because the medical center only opened in September, she said it’s quite possible not every member of every medical staff in Summit County is aware of how it operates and its services.
"We assume good intent," she said.
Roberts said she isn’t familiar with the details of Booker’s situation, but confirmed they do accept the insurance held by both Booker and Higgins, do accept pediatric patients, and frequently treat severe fractures.
Public affairs representatives for the University of Utah Hospitals and Clinics explained that because of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), they aren’t at liberty to discuss the March 28 situation to protect patient privacy.
Dori Cannard, the ski clinic manager, did offer to clarify their treatment policies.
The clinic is small and in a prefabricated structure shared with ski patrol’s emergency medical technicians, but the staff and equipment is all very advanced, Cannard said. The physicians are board certified sometimes in multiple areas.
At any moment, there is an attending physician (who is either an expert in emergency medicine, sports medicine, orthopedics or some other related specialty), a registered nurse certified in life-support treatment, a radiology technician to perform X-rays, and a receptionist.
They regularly handle fractures, joint dislocations, head injuries, knee injuries and even problems as minor as pink eye, she said.
They know well what they can handle, and what they should send patients elsewhere for. Every medical facility in Park City has a niche, she said, and they’re aware of what that is. For example, they always send head traumas to the Park City Medical Center.
"We put patients in the hands of whoever will give tem the best care for what their problem is," Cannard explained.
Her staff regularly participates in conferences to be familiar with practices in other ski clinics across the country. She said it is common for resort clinics to limit the number of insurance policies they accept often a decision made by the insurers, not the clinics. For example, she said the Alta clinic accepts cash and credit card only. It is also common to require payment at the time of service.
"But we never ask for money ‘up front.’ It’s not what we do," she said.
The PCMR clinic accepts all forms of Utah insurance, but only Blue Cross Blue Shield for out-of-state patients. They do, however, give those patients a 20 percent discount and provide them with all the forms and treatment codes needed to apply for compensation from their insurer. It’s a common practice, she said.
Although she could not comment on the treatment of the girls on March 28, she said that generally serious fractures in children would first be stabilized at the clinic, and then sent to Primary Children’s Hospital because children’s growth plates require specialized treatment.
Cannard said the University of Utah system encourages constant evaluation to ensure they’re providing the best care possible. Even though they cannot please every patient, they strive to and have a great relationship with the resort to provide speedy and advanced care to skiers.
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