Dec 28, 2010

Medical horror stories, part III

A reader writes:

In the short amount of time since I arrived in South Africa, the Peace Corps Medical Officers have changed my medicine about 5 or 6 different times. Last week I was told to come to Pretoria for a day to chat with some psychologist. I thought that they might actually be trying to do something to fix all their mistakes. Well, that didn’t end up being the case. I met with a random Afrikaner (who knows nothing about me, my situation, my history, or my countries of origin) psychologist a single time for a grand total of about 30 minutes and he thought they maybe they should change a diagnosis. The protocol that the Peace Corps has in place is to medically separate me and send me back to DC for a while; and then I can apply for reinstatement. Well, a “change of diagnosis” is theoretically the reason they are trying this, but a diagnosis can obviously not be reached with one 30 minute meeting with someone I have never met... I am normally a pretty relaxed and laid back person, but the Peace Corps has screwed with me way too much this time...

They have unwillingly changed the medicine and dosage of what I take around 5 or so times, with no consultation or follow-up. I had to put up a hell of a fight to get them to finally give me the Lexapro again (they gave me Celexa instead; it’s not the same chemical, it’s half as effective with twice the side effects)... Well, now they bring me into Pretoria, change stuff again, and then want me to go to the US to “become stable”... The mismanagement and carelessness of the Peace Corps medical staff is the only reason I ever had to come to see somebody, as well as the reason I wasn’t as productive at my site as I could have been (and likely why I did more sleeping and worrying during PST than actual training)... So, after I see this random Afrikaner dude, [Nurse B] sends some e-mail to DC and they decide that I should be medically separated. It would be one thing if they received input from the volunteer and possibly others, but they made this decision without being told anything about how the medical personnel should also be given some, if not most, of the blame...

I went into the office and spoke with the acting Country Director as well as the head of the medical staff (no, not [B], but someone who actually seemed like he was trying to be helpful) and informed them that I refuse to go anywhere else or put any ink to paper until the office in DC has been informed of all of the mismanagement that led to this being an issue in the first place and the case is thoroughly reviewed (with all of the information being taken into consideration)... They contacted DC (well, theoretically at least) and inform them that I refuse to be medically separated until my case is properly reviewed and dealt with. In all the years those two have worked with the Peace Corps they said they’ve never seen somebody refuse to be medically separated... (And I’ve heard numerous stories of other recent volunteers straight up quitting the Peace Corps because of somewhat similar issues.) It really disappoints me to hear that not a single other volunteer has ever stood up for their rights and demanded that the serious organizational problems are fully known to the office in DC and are fixed and taken care of immediately... But, of course, they won’t even let me even try to appeal or speak to someone that’s higher up the ladder. I was trying to schedule a meeting with the US Ambassador today to let him know what’s going on and see if he could be of any aid, but its Thanksgiving and so it’s closed. Fine, I’ll try to meet with him tomorrow, right? Oh, of course not... Peace Corps says that if I don’t get on the plane to DC tomorrow that I will be immediately administratively separated here in South Africa and I will be responsible for my own transportation, lodging, food, and visa... Does this sound like a fair and just thing to do? If I had come to South Africa on my own volition, then it would be one thing, but I never signed anything that said that by joining the Peace Corps you officially give up any rights you have as an American citizen.

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