LEHIGH ACRES, FLA — For the Wright family, in North Fort Myers, the month of August, got off to a scary start.
"He ended up having a heat stroke," said Jacqueline Wright, "The person calls me and say they put a pillow under him and are gonna call 911."
Her husband, who had the heatstroke, was taken to Lehigh Regional Medical Center for treatment.
But Mrs. Wright says from the start she struggled to get updates on his care.
"Days go on you keep calling and it's never anything professional, never," she said.
And she added that some staff members outright refused to call her back.
"I hear her make a statement to him that she don't have to call me back because he's on the phone talking to me," she said.
The heatstroke led to kidney issues, so her husband was put on dialysis in the hospital.
Concerned about the quality of care he was receiving, Mrs. Wright tells FOX 4 she asked to have him transferred to another hospital, but she says the move didn't happen due to an administrative mix-up.
And when she complained, Mrs. Wright claims staff told her that COVID-19 was to blame for the poor service.
"Stop trying to make excuses because it's the COVID. Act like you care," she said.
FOX 4 called the hospital for an explanation and they emailed us the following statement:
“At Lehigh Regional Medical Center our responsibility to protect our patient’s privacy and confidentiality is our number one priority and therefore we cannot acknowledge any request for health care information.”
It's a statement that Mrs. Wright isn't buying because she claims staff breached patient confidentiality after calling her with test results for the wrong patient.
"A nurse comes on the phone, on my husband's personal phone, and is telling me they're moving him up to a room. Then she tells m he has COVID on top of the heatstroke," she said, "Not even five or ten minutes later I get a phone call back saying that they made a mistake because she recalled me saying his name and his birthday but the birthday didn't match the test results."
And now she's calling on the hospital to make changes to how it handles its patients and their families.
"It has to be accountability. It has to have care if you're going to be in this field," she said.
As of Wednesday morning, Mr. Wright was discharged from that facility. Mrs. Wright tells FOX 4 that she is now working to get him registered for dialysis at a clinic closer to home.
FOX 4 knows that being hospitalized, or even just going to the doctor, can be overwhelming for so many.
So to help, we spoke to two patient advocates, Sandra Perez who works for RK Care Group in South Florida, and Caitlin Donovan who works for the Patient Advocate Foundation. We asked them about how patients can work to make sure they get the best care while being treated.
"Because there is high stress in the medical field, especially now more than ever it's important that we ask questions necessary to feel comfortable," said Perez.
"When you're first checking in usually there will be some type of patient's rights in your sign-in forms," said Donovan.
They say you can also request a copy of that patient's rights form and add that you should read the whole thing!
And if you feel like you need a little extra help advocating for yourself in healthcare settings, both women say google is your best friend.
They encourage folks to look up local, or even national patient advocate groups and make some calls until you find the right fit.