Perhaps I expect too much from doctors. I suspect it’s because my father was a physician and I thought every doctor should be like him. Dad was an internist, and at one time, the President of the State Society of Internal Medicine. He was a political activist, with a significant role in the malpractice crisis in the 70’s. I remember seeing him on CBS’s “newsmakers,” talking about the malpractice crisis, sandwiched in between who I think was Abba Eban, and a pot-sniffing dog.
But the thing I remember most is that dad was a really good doctor. The type who was kind and caring, even more so to his often crabby and elderly patients than to his family. He isited his patients in the hospital even when he didn’t have to, just to “check up” on them if he felt they needed it (which meant my sister and I often didn’t get to the park or to zoo, or whatever other family outing had been planned), and who still made house calls if the situation warranted it.
Dad told me that he retired earlier than he’d planned, because the mountains of new forms and insurance requirements, plus the generally litigious atmosphere for doctors (he was never once sued for malpractice, by the way), meant that he could no longer provide medical care the way he used to do it. “medicine has turned into just a business,” he sighed.
Yesterday, I tried calling a new doctor who had been recommended by a very close friend. I was immediately put on hold with one of these centrex systems that gives you a dozen choices, none of them exactly what you wanted to call about. But on hold I went….I waited….I waited…five minutes, ten minutes…I fixed my hair…fifteen minutes…I worked on my web site. All the while I was given a running tab of how many callers were ahead of me and was urged to “leave a message.” Four callers…three callers…two callers (how many people could have been trying to get appointments)?
At twenty minutes, still stuck at two callers. I hung up. Stupidly, I tried again. on hold I went….I waited….I waited…five minutes, ten minutes……fifteen minutes…when the number jumped from three callers to five callers, I decided that the queue was rigged, and I’d spent enough time just trying to see if I could get an appointment.
I left a message.
I knew the message would not ever be returned (especially since I was not even a patient yet). It wasn’t.
Today, I called very early. I got someone on the phone fairly quickly. She told me that the doctor I wanted to see (with a recommendation from one of her existing patients) wasn’t seeing anyone until the end of May. But there were eight doctors in the “group,” so I asked if maybe one of the other doctors might see me as I needed more immediate attention than a few months from now.
“No, no one can see you before May.”
“But that’s months from now, and I have a problem that really needs attention more quickly,” I countered.
“You don’t seem to GET when I’m telling you,” the receptionist replied. “No one is seeing anyone before May.”
“Do you mean to tell me that out of eight doctors, not one could squeeze me in before three months even with a problem?
“No.” and it’s not our problem, she replied.
Readers, am I expecting too much to be able to be treated civilly? There supposedly is a patients bill of rights, but it has nothing in it that really protects and serves the patients. DO we, like Jet Blue passengers, have to suffer serious consequences before someone wakes up and realizes that healthcare has turned into NOcare?
My father used to worry that this is what healthcare would come to and that we would all suffer because of it. He was correct. I leave it to you to decide whether our healthcare system gives people the ability to get care, and has it made our society, especially our health professionals, into a business that makes it impossible for them to care, at all?