Healthcare patients missing appointments or stranded

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX -- Navigating the health care system and getting what you need at a price you can afford is difficult enough. Patients with one provider say what's happening to them is just too much.

Mercy Maricopa Integrated Care patients say the problems began about two weeks ago when their health care provider switched transportation contractors. One patient said she's been late for appointments; the other says he's missed them altogether.

"I'm seeing five different doctors, specialists, and right now I'm going through diagnostic testing that I need done," said Thomas Elias. He is suffering from a serious blood condition and can't afford to miss his doctor's appointments, but he says, unfortunately, these past two weeks have been anything but consistent. "I missed some appointments that were very important and to reschedule I have to wait a month and a half to see these doctors and that is also putting my health in jeopardy," he said.

Mercy Maricopa Integrated Care recently switched to a third party agency that dispatches drivers. They had been using Discount Cab, a company Elias says has always been consistent, on time, and most importantly, reliable every time.

Patient Lorri Altamirano agrees. "Before with Discount Cab, they were there within 5 to 20 minutes. They were awesome and I knew they were picking me up. I knew to look for the green cab," she said. She says with the new services, it's anyone's guess, and that makes her nervous. "The last time I was picked up, it was a black sedan with no markings, and I was, like, terrified to get in," she said.

Altamirano says she has also been late or waited as long as an hour to be picked up. After our inquiry, a spokeswoman with Mercy Maricopa released a statement that read, in part: "We apologize for any disruption or inconvenience...  We have been working hard in collaboration with our service providers to make sure issues are promptly resolved..."

The spokeswoman added that no delay is acceptable, and encourages patients to call the office with any problems. If a member encounters any transportation problems, call Mercy Maricopa’s toll-free number for transportation services: 1-800-564-5465; (TTY/TDD) 711. Select option 1 to request transportation.