By Leisa Zigman I-Team Reporter
St. Louis (KSDK) - Shirley Valentine doesn't think anyone will hear her complaints. She doesn't think anyone cares about her story. She is just a number to state officials and a number that doesn't get much attention. We felt her story was worth telling.
Here is the number that most people will care about; $30 million.
That is how much you are paying this year to transport Missouri's low-income citizens to doctor's appointments, surgeries, and dialysis.
Since Logisticare took over the state contract in October, the I-Team has received complaints about drivers no showing or arriving four to five hours late.
We met Shirley Valentine at her home at 4 a.m. as she got ready for a driver to pick her up and take her to dialysis.
Seven years ago high blood pressure led to kidney failure. Now, she needs dialysis three times a week. If her driver is late, that time is subtracted off of her treatment. "That is cutting my life in half," she explained.
St. Louis vendors, hired by Logisticare, are her lifeline. But too often she says they don't show up.
Missouri officials say Logisticare provided 127,000 rides in November and December and 99.6 percent of them went well.
But, officials didn't want to talk on camera about Shirley or hundreds of trips that did not go well.
So, the I-Team focused on public documents detailing complaints against Logisticare.
There were less than 500 reports but those records paint a picture of frustration for a group of people often marginalized and underserved.
In November and December three patients were hospitalized after drivers no-showed for dialysis treatments.
A wheelchair rider was ejected from his seat after the driver failed to secure him and slammed on the brakes.
Social workers at dialysis units around the state filed complaints about drivers being four and five hours late.
Hospital nurses reported delayed discharges due to driver's no showing. One nurse complained of a patient waiting 22 hours for his ride to show up.
Another patient waited two hours to be picked up after a chemotherapy treatment.
And, another missed a doctor's appointment regarding his kidney transplant.
Robert Brown is President of EMT, the largest Logisticare vendor in St. Louis. EMT is also the vendor with the most complaints regarding no-shows and late pickups.
"We do care. We care maybe more than you recognize," said Brown.
He said his company is always looking for ways to improve service and that even one complaint is one too many. He said, "I'm not happy about it, neither is any of our staff."
EMT upgraded its cars with GPS to better track on time performance last month and records show its driver's numbers are improving.
Brown said, "Its people. If we are at 99.9 percent, that means one out of every thousand, and if it were my grandmother that was that one, I would be highly upset."
State officials and those with Logisticare say they are constantly looking for ways to improve service and to address the less than one percent of complaints.
To those in that one percent, words don't mean much.
Through tears and some anger Shirley said, "I'm trying to stay alive and they don't care. They don't care."
On the day we went with Shirley to dialysis, her driver was on time.
After her three hour treatment, she waited another hour to get picked up and taken home.
Albert Cortina, the Chief Administrative Officer with Logisticare sent a statement saying in part,"It is our goal to manage a program that delivers safe, on-time service to each member accessing the benefit in a manner that is the most efficient for the citizens of Missouri and most effective for the medical provider community."
If you have a complaint or are experiencing problems with a vendor you can call 1-800-392-2161.
We'll continue to monitor the state numbers and complaints for Shirley and others who feel they don't have a voice.
If you have a story, complaint, or situation that needs to be investigated, you can send a confidential e-mail to the I-Team. Just email Leisa Zigman at Lzigman@ksdk.com.