Northwestern Medicine and Delnor really do suck!

Northwestern Medicine and Delnor really do suck!

Modern medicine is a negation of health. It isn’t organized to serve human health, but only itself, as an institution. It makes more people sick than it heals. – Theologian Ivan Illich

Of all the topics I’ve so intrepidly tackled over the years, none of them generates a more swift and sure response than simply mentioning Geneva, Illinois’ Delnor Hospital and/or Northwestern Medicine (hereafter NWM).

Even an act as simple as asking for general practitioner recommendations on social media is the kind of perilous proposition that’s typically reserved for discussing taking a knee during the national anthem.

How do I know this? Because I advanced that very request on Facebook last month, and from the reactions of the majority of the rabble, you’d think I asked them whether married gay folks should be allowed to have abortions while they chant “From the river to the sea.” And the pitchfork and torch bearing mob assembled despite my express written caveat that I wasn’t interested in debating the efficacy of Delnor or NWM.

I don’t need to debate it because I already know.

briefly explained that I simply needed was a main physician because I’m tired of NWM’s callous disregard for patients which invariably leads to a series of persistent administrative lapses. Considering how arrogant and incompetent NWM is in general, I thought the mob would respond along the lines of “Well, you suck as a journalist and person, but you’re right this time.”


The protests commenced with “I love my Delnor doctor” moving right on up to “Delnor saved my 13th cousin 28 times removed you scurrilous cad.” I finally managed to quell the riot by declaring that I’ve never run into a bad NWM Doctor – some are better than others – and that I was happy that Delnor worked for them.

My central difficulty in convincing folks that Delnor is one of the worst hospitals in Illinois is the friends, attorneys, and elected officials who come to me with all the horror stories insist they don’t go to print.

Though it’s a difficult choice, my favorite Delnor experience was the time my wrist was shattered on the Batavia bike baths by a nurse who didn’t know her left from right. As those Delnor orderlies were wheeling me out of the ER room for x-rays, they slammed the same wrist into the door jamb, further shattering it. Then the ensuing x-rays were so bad my orthopedic doctor had to completely reshoot them.

It takes real skill to master that level of incompetence, and trust me, that story pales in comparison to the others I’ve heard. Don’t believe me? Ask any nurse who’s ever worked there. They’ll make my thoughts on this medical disaster look a lot like the Mister Rogers’ version.

As for Northwestern Medicine, it’s a bureaucratic nightmare of epic proportions. The poorly trained 20-something “customer service” reps won’t let you talk to your doctor’s office and they don’t understand the simplest medical terminology, either. Not to mention their attitude generally sucks, too.

At least half of any NWM MyCharts messages go unheeded, there’s only a 33 percent chance of having your doctor’s office call you back despite their insistence they will, and trying to get a prescription refilled through their system is a crapshoot at best and legal malpractice at worst.

Case in point! This is what instigated my final NWM departure.

Late last month I started getting automated phone calls from NWM claiming I owed them money and I needed to call them back forthwith. Please pause to consider the kind of fucking hubris it takes for a company to essentially say, “You aren’t even worth the time to call you, so please call us so we can put you on hold for ten minutes.”

So, I girded my loins and called back only to have the snippy woman tell me I don’t owe them anything and the calls will likely stop.

So, the next day I got a call from NWM claiming I owed them money and I needed to call them back right away. This time a reasonable gentleman looked everything up and down only to inform me that I don’t owe them any money and the calls would likely stop.

So, the next day I got a call from NWM explaining that I owed them money and needed to call them back immediately. This time a snippy young man told me I don’t owe them any money and the calls would likely stop.

Since that clearly wasn’t gonna be the case, I started digging into the convoluted and generally useless MyCharts system only to discover an unpaid fourth-month old $14 lab charge for which I’d never been billed. Apparently NWM uses one customer ID for medical work and another one for lab work. What could possibly go wrong with that level of stupidity?

Then the bleep on the phone blamed me for the problem at which point I hung up on him. My solution was to move from paperless back to paper billing so I didn’t get bombarded with automated calls to cough up that 14 buck or your dog gets it.

Ah! But now it’s no longer Jeff Ward against the Northwestern Medicine machine, because equally fed up with their incessant administrative incompetence, their very own doctors just filed to unionize.

“Due to inadequate staffing and support systems, we have to sacrifice our well-being to provide the high-quality care our patients receive,” Joseph deBettencourt, a pediatric resident at Lurie Children’s Hospital said, “By forming a union we can gain the power and support to address these issues and actively improve our workplace and the care we provide for our patients.”

Please stop and think about this possibility for a second.

We’re not talking about overly entitled Gen Z waitresses who think they’re god’s gift to the culinary world. We’re not discussing insipid fast food counter workers who think they’re worth $20 an hour or insufferable baristas who believe that slinging bad coffee is a reasonable career choice. We’re talking about highly paid folks who’ve made it to the pinnacle of their profession requiring 10 to 14 years of higher education to get there.

And having to endure Northwestern Medicine is the straw that broke the camel’s back? That tells you everything you need to know about Delnor Hospital and the bullshit NWM cattle call medical paradigm that sucks for doctors and patients alike.

Did I mention that I’ve been saying the very same thing for years? I understand that it’s one thing for Jeff Ward to complain, but it’s another thing entirely when that asshole is supported by over 1,300 Northwestern Medicine physicians.

The National Labor Relations Board is currently awaiting NWM’s response to their request for NWM to voluntarily recognize this organizing effort. Whaddaya wanna bet they refuse to do so?

The good news is, despite all of the absurd Facebook abuse, I did get four solid non-NWM GP recommendations which I would be happy to print here if there’s any interest.

So, now you know exactly why I’m done with Northwestern Medicine and that the only way I’ll ever darken a Delnor doorway is if I’m wheeled in unconscious. But at least I’m in very good company these days.

Unionizing doctors? I never thought I’d see the day! 

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