San Jose Man Says Life ‘Ruined’ By Valley Medical Center Delays
A San Jose man says he lost this job, his life savings and his home because he’s been forced to wait more than six months for a surgery at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, which is a public hospital in Santa Clara County, Calif.
William Spradlin is an aircraft mechanic. Over the course of his decades-long career he says he has worked on almost every aircraft in every country in the world. The work is labor-intensive.
“A lot of the hardware that I have to torque has to be torqued at 180 inch pounds. Some people don’t even weigh that much,” he said.
Spradlin has been feeling pain in his lower abdomen for years but says the pain became so severe last June he was forced to miss work as a contractor for a South Bay aviation company two to three days a week.
“[This job is] everything. That’s me,” he said. “I just couldn’t move … it’s just a throbbing pain. It makes you manic.”
Spradlin says he suffers from multiple hernias where he has to avoid heavy lifting, unless he gets surgery. The Investigative Unit obtained a medical record showing a referral for General Surgery from his primary doctor.
“He sends me to a specialist and weeks go by. So when I finally got this [referral] letter that they had approved the surgery, I was excited. And then I was told that they didn’t have a service provider, and that they haven’t had one since April,” Spradlin said.
In some cases, the doctors said patient safety was put at risk. At least one of the patients was identified as child at the hospital’s gastroenterology department.
“I was literally in awe [seeing those reports]. You guys were talking about me … I’m not the only one,” Spradlin said.
In Spradlin’s case, he said the hospital told him to call back to set up an consultation in October. When he did that, they tried to schedule an appointment for Nov. 1 and then immediately rescheduled it for Nov. 15, he said. Nov. 15 is when he got his first consultation for hernia surgery. During that meeting, the doctor told him he needed to lose weight before the procedure.
“That would’ve been great to know in August, you know. Or June!” he said.
Spradlin says he tried going to other hospitals, but the providers wouldn’t take his insurance. As a contractor, he has Valley Health Plan (VHP) insurance, which is owned and operated by Santa Clara County.
When the Investigative Unit reached out to Santa Clara County and Santa Clara Valley Healthcare, the entity that operates Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, about Spradlin’s case, county hospital officials declined an interview citing privacy concerns. A spokesperson sent a statement saying, “Insured patients have many other options within their network and can seek care outside the system if the wait time is of concern.”
Spradlin says, in his case, that wasn’t true.
“Insurance wouldn’t do it. My doctor even said ‘good luck.’ He got on the phone. He called [other] doctors and asked them do they take this insurance? Can you take this insurance? Is there a way we can get you to take this insurance? [They said] no,” he said.
Since his consultation, Spradlin has dropped most of the weight he was told to lose, but he’s still waiting for his procedure. In October, he says his employer didn’t renew his contract, and he can’t get another job because he has to report injuries in his line of work.
“I lost all my savings. I’m homeless. I’m forced to live with my brother now and his family,” Spradlin said.
In their statement to the Investigative Unit, Santa Clara Valley Healthcare said, “… like all systems, we experience imbalances in supply and demand from time to time, and patients may occasionally need to wait longer than they would like for non-urgent care.”
“Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, many patients deferred their health care needs, adding to the increasing number of patients now seeking care. In addition, there is an increasing number of individuals on government-subsided health coverage programs in Santa Clara County, with Medi-Cal enrollment alone increasing 7.2% in the past year (up 30,737 enrollees from June 2021 to June 2022) and 17.5% in two years (up 68,634 from June 2020 to June 2022),” a Santa Clara Valley Healthcare spokesman added.
Santa Clara Valley Healthcare recently purchased other hospitals and added construction to help address patient delay issues. Last year, they added more than 600 new positions as they continue to actively recruit.
Patient delay issues still persist, however. Santa Clara Valley Healthcare says their current median wait time for routine referrals to General Surgery is around 40 days. According to the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, the maximum wait time for a General Surgery specialist should be 30 days.
We asked how these delays have impacted Spradlin’s life.