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Tampa Bay woman suffered for months because she couldn't get a doctor's note

What does it take to get Hospice involved?
Posted at 6:13 PM, Feb 27, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-27 18:13:23-05

Kathy Sistos struggled with a rare form of Muscular Dystrophy her entire life.

The disease that ate away at her muscles for decades progressed with a vengeance in 2017.

Her daughter Mindy Schaumberg says it was horrifying to watch her mother in agony day after day. Constant pain robbed Kathy of the ability to eat or sleep. Her weight plummeted to 55 pounds, leaving her bed ridden.

Her husband Dan says doctors refused to prescribe adequate pain medication.

And they say Hospice told them a doctor needed to declare that Kathy had six months to live before they could step in and help, but no doctor would.

Two of the Sistos called us back in January. We relayed Kathy’s story to Hospice in Zephyrhills. A nurse came out the next day and Kathy was accepted as a patient.

Dr. Ronald Schonwetter is the Chief Medical Officer at Chapters Health System, which manages Hospice in Pasco county. He explained Hospice can and does step in without a doctor's referral.

He suggests caretakers make a phone call to them and ask for a patient assessment. Dan and Mindy say Hospice nurses administered medication which eased Kathy's pain to the point where she was able to rest and eat. She died two weeks later.

The family wishes they would have known it was possible to get help without a doctor's note.