Atlanta media reported contention between Vitas Hospice and ALS patient Hector Torres. AJC's article offered:
An Atlanta man battling ALS is fighting a hospice care facility to keep machines he needs to live. Hector Torres has to live his life hooked up to two machines that help keep him alive. "I'm dying. I'm suffocating, because I can't breathe," Torres said. He suffers from ALS, a disease that affects nerve cells in his brain and spinal cord.
ALS patients face a certain outcome, death. When the diaphragm weakens patients are unable to expel carbon dioxide in their lungs.
Torres told Channel 2's Tyisha Fernandes he needs two machines to breath, a ventilator and another to supply oxygen.
Vitas Hospice's medical team determined Torres needed assistance expelling carbon dioxide from his lungs and would benefit from prescribing oxygen.
Vitas Hospice officials were letting him use the machines in his home, but now that the location is under new management the hospice is taking back one of the machines.
The machines were prescribed as part of Mr. Torres hospice treatment, provided by Vitas, likely through a contract arrangement. New management should have nothing to do with giving Mr. Torres what he needs to treat his symptoms and keep him comfortable. The article gave this response from Vitas:
"They have to meet a criteria of having a life expectancy of less than six months. When a patient no longer meets that criteria, no hospice provider can offer them hospice services."
Frankly, this is a bizarre response. If Mr. Torres no longer meets hospice criteria Vitas must discharge him and arrange for other providers to pick up his care. Too much information is missing from this piece to understand what is going on.
1) What did the Interdisciplinary Hospice Team decide regarding Mr. Torres care?
2) Testing the impact of stopping one machine or the other can be done in the home without removing either machine. Was this done and what was learned?
3) What is new management charged with that impacted Mr. Torres' case? Was the charge to reduce durable medical equipment costs by a certain amount/percent?
4) Did Vitas staff inform Mr.Torres that he can rapidly switch hospices if he is not happy with his current hospice provider?
Unfortunately ALS patients have one path and hospice is the route. Reporters cannot know the nuances of care provision and the toxic nature of management obsessed with money and measures. They likely intertwine in this story, but there's more to learn. That said there's nothing innovative about not giving patients what they need to die free of pain and with dignity.
P.S. A Vitas hospice patient made the news again, but this time the police and courts were the bad guys.