Woman treated for cancer she didn't have; hospital wants her to pay
COLUMBUS, Ohio —
A Columbus woman was about to battle a deadly disease, but it turned into a debate over her diagnosis.
The diagnosis later turned out to be wrong, but the hospital still expects her to foot the bill.
Bonnie Hetrick's said her nightmare began last August, after doctors at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital took a closer look at a troubling tumor in her pelvic area.
She said at first they weren't sure what it was.
Hetrick said her case was shared with several medical experts and cancer hospitals, and that it took them a month to come back with the diagnosis of ovarian cancer
She said the news was devastating and so was the treatment.
"Four and a half months of chemotherapy," said Hetrick.
She said she lost her hair and her fingernails turned black.
Several months later, Hetrick said doctors did another scan to see how the cancer was responding.
It revealed a second tumor in the same area, and a biopsy revealed it was same as the original tumor- but not ovarian cancer.
She says she was told it was a gastro intestinal cancer, or GIST, and that it could be easily treated with a pill.
"I walked out in shock," said Hetrick.
"I didn't have words. I went through all that chemo, all of that stress on my body and losing my hair, and just being so fatigued I could hardly function. And now it's just a pill I have to take for 3 years."
She says her doctor apologized, but then came the bills.
Hetrick said she was told by patient services that since the hospital had provided a standard of care for her diagnosis at the time, there was nothing they could do.
"The patient services people wouldn't come down any," she said.
"My doctor requested help with it, and originally they wrote off $600."
She said $800 remains outstanding.
Most of her bills were covered by insurance, but she says that's not the point.
"The point is they should do the right thing," said Hetrick.
"They put me through something I did not need to go through. And they should write off my out of pocket expenses for that."
We reached out to the James on Hetrick's behalf.
A hospital spokeswoman gave us this statement:
“While we cannot provide information about a specific patient due to federal privacy laws, our goal is to provide the highest quality cancer care to all patients and exceed expectations with their care experience.
Anytime we become aware of a patient or family concern, we promptly take action to investigate and resolve the issue.
Patients or their family can contact the James Patient Experience Department to get help with any concern.”
Hetrick told ABC6 she has reached out to the James a number of times.
"And I've tried and tried and tried, with everybody I know there at OSU," she said.
"And all they can say is I'm very sorry."
John Palmer, with the Ohio Hospital Association, said there are several ways patients can address bills and other issues.
"Many hospitals do have those options for patients to contact them to work through exactly what occurred and how we can go about to correct it and to have it resolved," he said.
After months of trying, Hetrick says the stress of the ordeal isn't worth it.
"It's not blatant malpractice- I understand that," she said.
"It was hard to diagnose. However, a mistake was made. And a doctor's oath is first do no harm. Well they did harm to me."