(This is part 2 of a 3-part story investigating Stringham Hospital, a psychiatric facility, and the doctors associated with it. Previously we heard an account from a former patient about his stay there. Patient names have been changed to protect their privacy.)
As reported by archy and mehitabel
At the end of Ed’s story, we were perplexed. Was there a story there or not? Maybe what Ed needed was a competent doctor. But stories of cats tormenting rodents sounded too close to the bad old days of New York City to ignore. We decided to split up to do some investigating.
As a cockroach, it seemed natural that I would go to the offices of Dr. Igor, Dr. Boris, and Dr. Bela. I would be able to hide in a nook and listen. Even if I was discovered, it would just look like an addition to the neighborhood.
The office is in a well-kept part of a working neighborhood. They shared the building with several other medical practices. The sign said “Medical Office” under their names. I thought it was a little strange. Usually doctors specialize: “Small Animal Skin Disorders”, “Rodent Eating Disorders,” or the like.
I went one night and settled in a nice spot in the wall where I could get to any part of the office easily. I spent the first day with Dr. Igor. He only works in the mornings. In four hours, he saw twenty-five patients. Needless to say, he only spent a few minutes with each one. But that wasn’t a red flag. Lots of doctors barely see their patients anymore before diagnosing and writing a prescription.
He had a tablet that gave him the patient’s name, address, occupation, and insurance information. It also had the reason the patient was there. A typical visit went something like this:
Doctor: Hello Jack. Nice to meet you. I see you have a cold.
Jack: Well, I’ve been feeling….
Doctor: No need to get into that, I’ve been seeing a lot of patients like you.
(Looks at the tablet)
Doctor: You can pick up a prescription on your way out. Please come back in a week so I can make sure you’re better.
Dr. Igor’s patients got one of three instructions: I’m sorry I can’t help you, I need to refer you to Dr. F.N. Stein, or come back in a week.
Listening to Dr. Boris and Dr. Bela, I heard similar responses. What triggered which response?
The receptionist was Siamese, like the doctors, and talked a lot. I’m surprised the patients could get a word in. Every call was the same: patient species, patient name, patient address, patient phone, patient federal ID number, type of insurance, insurance numbers, and date of appointment. Interestingly, they did not accept cats as patients.
When she got off the call, she immediately called the insurance company to find out when coverage began, whether medical services were covered, if psychiatric services were covered, how long benefits would continue and whether there was monetary limit to the benefits.
I applied for a job at Stringham. At the interview, they said I looked like I would be good at managing patients and hired me as an orderly. Later I discovered that only pure-blood cats would be hired into administrative/executive positions. The rest of us would be orderlies, maintenance or cooks.
We “mutt cats” were treated as if we were invisible. It was degrading, but worked to my advantage. (Ed. Note –The term “mutt cat” was applied by the hospital. This paper does not discriminate based on species or parentage.)
When a patient arrived, the first thing we did was accompany them to their medical assessment. There were five cats (Norwegian Woods) on the panel, with a Dr. Stein as the leader. Everyone who came here was admitted. There was no appeal. If they made too much trouble, an orderly gave them a shot and dragged them to their room.
There were 15-20 animals in each room. We fed them once a day, kitty kibble. Once a week, we put down new litter. The place was beyond disgusting. The patients were mainly small animals with a few dogs thrown in. There were no feline patients.
Every morning, a Burmese named Michele would tell us which animals were to be taken to the lab. She was the head researcher. We took the animals to the lab. She decided which ones she needed that day and told her maintenance staff to get rid of the rest. The maintenance staff was three “mutt cats.” They took the unneeded animals out, and we never saw them again.
We orderlies waited outside until the experiments were over. We took the test subjects back to their room. Usually they were sedated to the point of insensibility.
They fired me after two weeks. They had decided I wasn’t the right “type” for the position.
Coming soon: Part 3: Putting the pieces together.