One day last week the head mechanic for the Wirt County DOH and a helper were using a breaker bar and a cheater pope to tighten nuts on a long arm mower, the standard practice for a routine procedure. For reasons unknown the pin in the breaker bar broke causing both to fall to the ground with the helper falling on top the head mechanic.
The bottom man's right arm bent back at the wrist causing severe pain and a sickness in the stomach. He was brought to the garage so workmen's comp forms could be filled out before obtaining medical assistance.
While filling out the forms a call was made to the Coplin Clinic, a taxpayer funded facility in Elizabeth, asking if it would be OK to bring him there for emergency treatment. The lady who answered the phone said such would be fine and bring him in.
When I brought him in with W. Va. Workmen's Comp form in hand we were told that he could receive no treatment "because he was not a client of the clinic and workmen's comp cases who were not prior clients could not be treated." It was pointed out that his wife and children "were clients" and that he was a Wirt County resident and taxpayer, but that did not matter. It was made clear that policy and guidelines did not allow such and they were sorry.
The injured worker was taken to the emergency room at Camden Clark hospital where he received X-rays and treatment for sprains, strains and a possible break.
Afterwards the administrator at the Coplin Clinic called and even sent a letter saying there had been a mistake and that he should come back as there were long lines at the emergency room (not so, he was taken in immediately) and that they had misunderstood policy, etc.
While I do not doubt that they realized they made a mistake, there are two very important points that this incident made glaringly obvious. Both issues are of major concern to the taxpayers and citizens of the area and the state.
First, this case makes it clear the untenable situation concerning Workmen's Compensation in West Virginia, when it is so bad that government funded health clinics have to have special rules because of the horrid situation.
Secondly, The Coplin Clinic is supposed to be a shining example of health services provided by the government for its citizens. It is a brand, shiny new structure located on a prime piece of real estate on likely the highest price piece of land every sold in the county.
The other term for this is Socialized Medicine. As such service is a commodity to be rationed as administrators both locally and in Charleston and Washington feel the urge. Rules and guidelines have been set up (most notably outrageous liability insurance) which stifle free enterprise medical practice.
I do not know the answers, but as a supervisor who was responsible for an injured worker who was in pain and who had been told to go elsewhere, I certainly felt, as we walked out the doors, that we had been done an injustice and that some of the responsible parties lived elsewhere.
Supervisor, Wirt County DOH