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ROBERT L. MARONIC: Mayo Clinic In Rochester, Minnesota: Caveat Emptor

There is a medieval Latin phrase, caveat emptor, or let the buyer beware. I spent almost three months at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota from November 3, 2018 to January 26, 2019. The day I left I was no better than the day I had arrived.

There are essentially three components to the Mayo Clinic: the outpatient clinic composed of the Mayo and Gonda buildings downtown on First Street, research scattered throughout Rochester, and Mayo’s three hospitals: St. Mary’s Campus Hospital, which is one mile to the west of the Mayo Clinic, the downtown Methodist Campus Hospital on Center Street and the small Mayo Eugenio Litta Children’s Hospital located at the St. Mary’s campus.

The Mayo Clinic takes great pride in being rated as the “best” hospital in the United States by the U.S. News (& World Report’s) “America’s Best Hospitals: the 2022-23 Honor Roll and Overview” and other U.S. News rankings. This is true in 2022-23 as it was in 2018-19. However, there are highly misleading blue vertical banners all over outside downtown Rochester, which state, “Ranked #1 in the Nation – U.S. News and World Report.” However, this ranking does NOT include the clinic itself and any research.

In my opinion, the Mayo Clinic is primarily for the wealthy or top 10% of the United States and other numerous international patients, who are usually self-pay. Even if your health insurance pays for all your doctor’s visits and imaging, etc., your hotel, food and parking expenses at a minimum can easily add up to $800 to $1,000 per week.

Fortunately, if you live in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa or Wisconsin, Mayo accepts Medicaid. If not, a patient in the other forty-five states and sixteen U.S. territories needs to have a world class medical problem in order to be accepted by the Mayo Clinic. Thankfully, the Mayo Clinic accepts Medicare.

However, I warn you that if Admissions states that your stay will be ten days, please triple, quadruple or even quintuple the amount of time there because it can often take two months or longer to consult with a specialist. If in doubt, talk to a Walmart Supercenter pharmacist in southern Rochester about what I am saying. Fortunately, this would not be a major problem for someone, who lives within a one to six hour driving distance of Rochester.

I watched the Ken Burns’ PBS documentary entitled, The Mayo Clinic: Faith – Hope – Science twice in early October 2018. It is an interesting documentary, but I completely question the accuracy of Burns’ assertion that the Mayo Clinic is highly “collegial.” That was neither my experience nor many other patients regardless of ailment, whom I met while staying at the Kahler Grand Hotel, which is directly across the street from the eastern entrance of the Mayo Clinic’s Gonda building.

I must have had at least fifteen to twenty different consultations with the Mayo Clinic doctors, nurses and other staff either in the Mayo or Gonda buildings. 90% of them always ended with the statement that I would be a “good candidate for the Pain Rehabilitation Center (chronic pain management) at St. Mary’s.” After six weeks of hearing the same predictable concluding remarks, I felt like I was dealing with the Borg collective out of Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994) or Star Trek: Voyager (1995-2001).

I also received the impression that no junior doctor or nurse would dare disagree with a senior doctor or superior. My only problem was that in January 2019 the seventeen-day chronic pain management program at St. Mary’s cost $44,000, and my Medicare would only pay for 80% of the cost. That added up to $2,588.24 per day or $323.53 per hour for a typical eight-hour day. Today it costs $46,000 for seventeen days. The Mayo Clinic is indeed a money-making machine and still cheap on charity care.

The best doctor, whom I ever met at the Mayo Clinic, did not even work for the Mayo Clinic. (Dr. Marcella Scalcini M.D., my family doctor on Mayo 17, would take a very close second place.) This doctor’s name was Dr. David B. Ketroser, M.D. (click “See More”), J.D. of Minnetonka, Minnesota, a Minneapolis suburb, who unfortunately died from multiple sclerosis on November 7, 2019.

We first met when he and his wife were checking into the festive lobby of the Kahler Grand Hotel on Christmas Eve at 11:45 on Monday December 24, 2018 while I was waiting in my leased, red-Shoprider, three-wheeler, scooter chair for a no-show smart and beautiful Saudi Arabian princess from Khobar, whose first name was Maysa. Thank God that she never returned to the lobby because I would have definitely been distracted.

Dr. Ketroser was in the lobby in a self-propelled wheelchair because of multiple sclerosis returning to his parked car in front of the hotel, and that is when I asked him where he had purchased his thick black cushion on which he was sitting. He soon told me that he was a neurologist and later an attorney, who specialized in disability law and medical fraud. He gave me a free fifty-minute neurological examination for the chronic spasticity in both my lower legs and feet concluding with a thorough five-minute gate analysis.

He told me that my Mayo Clinic neurologist’s tentative diagnosis, was “way above his pay grade,” and everything that he was proposing was “wrong.” Plus, my neurologist was only board certified for three years, which greatly upset Dr. Ketroser. He told me that the Mayo Clinic was “very arrogant about their test results,” and that any test results in 2018 would mean as much in 2048 as the test results of the 1950s. In plain words, my test results would mean nothing.

He said that he did not need to see my Mayo Clinic test results because “you have a problem.” He also told me that the outpatient part of the Mayo Clinic (Mayo and Gonda) had good doctors, but they were not necessarily the best.

On January 2, 2019 I cancelled my appointment for the Mayo Clinic’s seventeen-day $44,000 chronic pain management program, but almost two weeks later on January 19 I signed up for their two-day “Executive Program” at an exorbitant rate of $10,000. The first day, which was a cold rainy Monday, all I did was watch Power Point slides for seven hours, and listened to various lectures given by psychologists with PhDs and registered nurses.

However, I became very suspicious when I did not see one board certified M.D. or D.O. the entire day. In retrospect, these Power Point slides were very reminiscent of what a neurologist, Dr. William S. Elias M.D., of Roanoke, Virginia had proposed for my tension headaches in 1979. I was not impressed.

I had every intention of returning the second day except after I had showered and eaten breakfast in my hotel room, I literally could not walk the fifteen yards sitting on the foot of my hotel bed to my scooter chair in the hallway so I cancelled my appointment. When I talked to a nurse what would be Plan B if I enrolled in the seventeen-day program, and there was no improvement in the chronic spasticity in both my lower legs and feet, she replied, “Honey, that means that you just did not get with the program.” I was shocked.

However, later that afternoon at 4:00 I felt much better after I had used the steam room on the fifth floor of the Dan Abraham building. The men’s room containing the steam room was immaculately clean and scooter chair friendly. To my utter amazement I received about sixteen hours of complete spasm relief.

The next day when I talked with Dr. Ketroser on the telephone, and informed him about the nurse’s “Plan B” remarks, he angrily replied, “We [the doctors in the Twin Cities] are so tired of dealing with their damn problems down there, and I question the success rate of their Pain Rehabilitation Center.”

According to my Kahler Grand Hotel bellman, he told me that unless you are a celebrity like Bill Clinton, Yoko Ono or some other wealthy patient, who stayed the previous spring on the exclusive eleventh floor of my hotel, the Mayo Clinic enforces a “business policy” of not recommending another doctor or medical center if they cannot solve your medical problem. Plus, the Mayo Clinic’s business office told me this same information twice. Their business policy was a brutal awakening and big disappointment in late January 2019. I was frankly disgusted with the Mayo Clinic at that point and anxious to leave.

Somehow Ken Burns forgot to mention that highly important fact in his 2018 documentary.

Dr. Ketroser later told me in a free second telephone consultation that the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio “loved beating the Mayo Clinic,” and highly recommended them. That was where a kind nurse in their pain management department told me on the telephone to ask my own pain management doctor in Roanoke, Virginia to ask about Medtronic’s intrathecal baclofen (BAK low fen) pump to reduce the spasticity in both my lower legs and feet.

The doctor eventually agreed to a baclofen pump trial, which was extremely successful, and I was referred to a neurosurgeon, Dr. Nicholas Marko, M.D. (see “View Full Bio”) at the Lewis-Gale Clinic in Salem, who once worked at the Cleveland Clinic for six years; he successfully implanted my baclofen pump on August 2, 2021. Thank you both Dr. Nicholas Marko, M.D and Dr. David B. Ketroser, M.D, J.D.

However, what really angered me about the Mayo Clinic was that fourteen months (minus one day) after I returned to Roanoke, Virginia, I had a heart attack on March 25, 2020 with a 99% blockage in my left main artery (widow maker) requiring a double bypass. The Mayo Clinic completely missed my cardiac problem. Fortunately, my heart has been back to normal since January 2021, and will continue to be due to the miracle drug Repatha. Thank you Dr. James J. Taylor, D.O. and Ms. Amanda Bright, P.A. at the Lewis-Gale Hospital in nearby Salem.

A third mistake that the Mayo Clinic made was in treating me for a “right rotator cuff problem” when in fact I had arthritis in my right acromioclavicular or AC joint in need of a distal clavicle resection. Thank you Dr. Cesar J. Bravo, M.D. at the Carilion Clinic in Roanoke.

Robert L. Maronic

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