– Why I’m not a fan of Mease Countryside Hospital.

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I have discussed the changing medical culture in the past; see (1), (2), (3), (4), (5). Herein I want to describe an actual experience I was involved with recently. Let me preface my remarks by saying I am no stranger to hospital Emergency Rooms having been to several over the years involving loved ones. I have discovered they are not all equal in terms of service and care. Recently, we had a horrible experience with a local hospital. Perhaps you can learn from this.

My elderly mother, who suffers from COPD, recently had been complaining of not being able to breath properly. This is someone who has been on oxygen 24/7 for at least five years, and taken an array of medications, so she is used to hospitals and their procedures. This time, our family doctor recommended I take her to Mease Countryside Hospital in Safety Harbor, FL where she should undergo a battery of tests, e.g.; blood test, chest X-ray, Cat-Scan, etc. From this, we hoped to be able to determine a course of action for her to take. We went to Mease Countryside because her primary medical physician is affiliated with it. Prior to this, we had no exposure to the hospital other than to visit friends convalescing.

The hospital was approximately twenty minutes from my Mom’s house. So, on a Thursday afternoon, I loaded her into the car where she used her portable oxygen machine to breath. In measuring breathing, the mid-90’s is normally a good score, but in the car she was in the low 80’s and was having trouble breathing (“wheeze-wheeze”). Nonetheless, I got her to the hospital promptly and brought her to the Emergency Room (ER) entrance, where I placed her in a wheelchair. We then went through the hassle of being checked for COVID-19 and security. After which we waited anxiously in line at the front desk where one woman was alone and tending to another check-in. I thought it strange only one person was there to admit people as this was a fair sized hospital with many people in the waiting area.

When we finally got to the admitting woman, I presented my Mom’s ID and insurance cards which she photocopied. I told her my Mom was having trouble breathing and asked if she could please expedite the process (“wheeze-wheeze”). It appeared it didn’t matter to her as she processed the admission bureaucratically. My Mom’s breathing seemed to be the least of her concerns. After this, she sequestered us in a waiting room where my Mom continued to wheeze. This was scaring me now as nothing seemed to be happening to help her. Finally, a nurse came out and whisked her away behind closed doors which I was not permitted to access. I tried to give the nurse a copy of my Mom’s meds and names/numbers of her physicians, but she dismissed me out of hand and refused to take the paper.

I was then left outside the door where I patiently waited for some information as to what was going on. While there, I thought about what had happened. From the time we arrived at the ER to the time she had someone look at her was approximately 25 minutes, an eternity for someone who is having trouble breathing.

I compared this to an incident a month earlier where a friend and I went out to dinner. Before we could order, she sensed something was wrong and thought she was having a stroke. The closest hospital was AdventHealth North Pinellas in Tarpon Springs (aka, “Helen Ellis Memorial”), a part of the AdventHealth system. Knowing it was nearby, I had the hostess help me get her into my car where I rushed her to the hospital at about 6:30pm, taking no more than ten minutes to get there. I got her in a wheelchair and into admissions. I handed the people there (two ladies as I recall) her ID and medical cards, which they scanned and updated their records automatically. Total time to get through admissions, two minutes, tops. She was then immediately treated by physicians.

The differences between the two hospitals was like night and day. One was interested in bureaucracy, the other was interested in patient care. Being an old systems man, I was amazed by the inefficiencies of the Mease Countryside system and seeming indifference to customer service.

After waiting about five minutes for word about my mother, three hospital security guards from Allied Universal Security Systems confronted me. I didn’t know what they wanted so I tried chatting with one where I commented on the incompetence in the ER, that I had never seen anything like it before. He told me that my Mom had not passed her COVID-19 test yet, and since I had contact with her I would have to wait. I said fine, and started to return to the waiting room where we were before. “Where are you going?” he said gruffly. This is when I began to notice he was irritated.

“I’m just going into the waiting room like you said,” I replied.

“No! You must wait outside, and if you make a scene I will have you banned from the hospital.”

I looked bewildered at him and said, “You’re kidding?”

No he wasn’t, so I turned to leave and began laughing as I had never seen such incompetence in an ER like this before.

After a few minutes, a nurse came outside to ask me questions about my Mom and apologized for the conduct of administration. I told him about the list of meds and doctors I had tried to give the other nurse and he said, “Great, this is exactly what we needed.”

I replied, “Hey, I tried.” He shook his head in disbelief and returned to the hospital.

After waiting outside for over a half-hour, a doctor called me and asked me to come back inside to see my Mom. When I re-entered, I had to go through the COVID-19 check and security again. This time, the security and staff eyed me suspiciously. I got the impression they were surprised I was being let back in.

My Mom had passed the COVID-19 test (she was negative) and they had completed their battery of tests on her lungs. The attending physician wanted her to spend the night in the hospital. Now, you have to remember why we came here; to get a battery of tests to calculate a strategy. She had undergone the tests and was anxious to go home, but the attending physician insisted she was in bad shape and should spend the night for observation. After discussing the matter with our family physician, we reluctantly agreed and they moved Mom upstairs to a regular room.

The one night turned into five as the medical personnel convinced my mother she was in bad shape. So much so, by the end of her stay the Hosptalist Doctor said she had two options: one, go home, which he didn’t recommend, and; two, enter her into a rehabilitation unit (aka, “Nursing Home”). Our fear was that she would go in but never come out. So, over the objections of the medical staff, we elected to take her home. To do so, I had to sign a waiver releasing the medical staff of any liabilities as we were going against their recommendations.

A few of the medical staff became nasty over our decision, “Oh, once you get her home, you’ll just have to bring her back here.”

Another said adamantly, “This is crazy, you belong in a rehab center.”

In other words, it became just as difficult to get Mom out of the hospital as it was to get her in. Maybe they should re-name the hospital to “Fort Knox.”

On Mom’s first day back at home, she woke up with an oxygen level of 97% which is excellent. She is now regaining her strength after sitting in bed for five days, and she was more relaxed as she wasn’t being harassed by the medical staff.


If we were to do this over again, I think I would have called 911 and have an ambulance take her to Mease Countryside as it appeared patients arriving in this manner were admitted immediately. I naively believed taking Mom to a hospital myself was better. Then again, maybe there is an incestuous relationship with ambulance companies that I am not aware of.

There are essentially two parts to any hospital, the administrative side, and the medical care side. Again, as an old systems man, I was appalled by how slow it seemed for patients to be admitted, just the antithesis of AdventHealth North Pinellas. Beyond this, there appeared to be an insensitivity in terms of caring for the incoming patients. In my judgement, they were only concerned with bureaucracy and cash-flow, meaning to keep patients in longer to make money.

The medical side was a bit better, but it seemed clear to us some medical people were much better than others. The best doctor there was the pulmonologist (treats lungs) who appeared to be very knowledgeable, gave straight answers, and had a good bed-side manner about him, but he was the exception as opposed to the rule.

Like the administrative side of the hospital, the medical side seemed obsessed with feeding the computer as opposed to providing patient care. Some were good and helpful people, while others had a rather poor bed-side manner. Feeding the computer was of paramount importance and, I believe, is a deterrent to effective patient care. True, AdventHealth North also is consumed by computers as well, but they seem to make a better effort to work with patients.

Interestingly, while waiting to pass “Check Point Charlie” at the main entrance at the start of visiting hours, I heard many other stories of hospital snafus by relatives of other patients. This obviously did not instill a sense of confidence in me. I also found the main switchboard to be impenetrable, thereby blocking me from talking to my mother or medical personnel. I learned quickly to take down telephone numbers of important personnel so I could dial them directly. If you didn’t have the number, forget it. It was an eerie blackout that didn’t sit well with me.

It was an odd feeling as we finally left Mease Countryside. Both my mother and myself felt like we had escaped, much like the prisoners who tunneled out of the high-security POW camp in the movie, “The Great Escape.” As I said, Mom’s health and sense of well-being immediately improved and continues to do so. Sorry Colleen, she is doing just fine, but won’t be back to have you taunt her.

So, people have asked me would I recommend Mease Countryside. Let me put it this way, if it is between bleeding in the street or going to Mease Countryside, I’ll take my chances in the street. That is how turned off I was with their service.

I am not trying to provoke a fight with Mease Countryside, but if nobody speaks up, nothing will change.

Keep the Faith!

P.S. – For a listing of my books, click HERE.

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is an author, freelance writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at [email protected]

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

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Copyright © 2021 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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