Monday, February 23, 2009

Dear Nurse Miss Kelly

If you aren't in the mood to read a rant, than I suggest you file this post under "to be read at a later date."

I work in healthcare. I'm going to graduate school for public health. I understand the healthcare crisis. I have money taken out of my paycheck every cycle to pay for my health insurance. I don't have complex medical issues. SO WHY CAN'T I GET A DOCTORS APPOINTMENT?!?!?!?!

Last year I found a GREAT internist/gynecologist. I also found a great dermatologist. After much angst I did find a dentist, but after my visit, I decided that I wouldn't be going back there ever again. In December, amongst holiday cards and holiday bills, I get a letter from the dermatologist:

Dear Nurse Miss Kelly,

It is with deep regret that we tell you that as of Jan. 1, 2009 Dr. N will no longer be with the practice. She has decided to relocate to Florida. Please call xxx-xxx-xxxx to book an appointment with the doctor who will be taking over her patient load.

Noted. Due for my annual checkup at the end of January, I called to book an appointment "with the doctor who will be taking over her patient load." What does the secretary tell me? Our conversation went something like this:

"Hi. This is Nurse Miss Kelly. I'm a patient of Dr. N's. I'm aware that she has left the practice, so I was hoping to book an appointment with whoever took over her patient load."

"Oh, well you see, you are going to have to wait. It's a four month wait to be seen as a new patient."

"But I'm not a new patient, I've been to the office before! I have records there. I just need to change doctors."

"Yes. But you are new to the replacement doctor and she will need to do a workup. What do you need an appointment for?"

"Just my annual skin check. I'm sorry, I'm confused. All patients of a doctor who left must now wait to be seen as new patients?"

"Correct. You can be seen in four months. How does April 29th sound?"

I concluded our call with, "Let me check my schedule and I'll call you back."

I was pissed. Not only did that not make any sense, but also this lady was clearly very misinformed. What did I do? First I looked to see the names of the other physicians in the practice to book an appointment with them. Then I called back, spoke with a muffled voice, what if the same wacko picked up, and booked an appointment with another doctor. Yes the wait was two months, but that was much more reasonable.

Crisis averted.

Not even two days later, I get another letter in the mail.

Dear Nurse Miss Kelly:

As of January 1, 2009, Dr. JW will be leaving WCIMA and joining a private practice. She will continue to admit her patients to xx hospital. Dr. PC will join WCIMA in February 2009 and will be responsible for your care. It is expected that she will participate in the same insurance plans that Dr. JW has participated in. Please contact us at xxx-xxx-xxxx to arrange to see our new physician.
If you wish to continue your care with Dr. JW here information is listed below..

Great, I'll call and book an appointment with her new practice. I mean, I never thought that she wouldn't take my insurance, after al it's expensive to be in private practice, so the more patients the merrier, right? WRONG.

Since I fractured my pelvis last summer, my lifestyle has been chaotic, at best. I broke up with a boyfriend, was studying for the GRE's, worked ALL the holidays, had a fight with my best friend, applied to grad school, etc. Through it all, I continue to work nights, sleeping less than four hours a night. My energy levels have bottomed out. It takes all my will power to get out of bed. I have no stamina and my workouts, once my sanity saver and favorite pastime, are awful and I hate the thought of the gym. My runs have dwindled down to nothing. I haven't run in over three weeks.

I've continued to eat my vegetarian, almost vegan diet and be very conscious of what and how much food I put in my body. So I was concerned that I started gaining weight and more and some more. I don't weigh myself, I go by how my clothes fit, but I'd estimate that I've gained 15 pounds since I graduated from college. And that freaks me the hell out!

Recently, I've began having some other symptoms:
-dry scalp and skin
-swelling of the hands and face
-gas and bloating
-thinning hair
-increased exhaustion

When I woke up the other morning and my hands were so swollen I couldn't get my rings off, and I also didn’t fit into any of my pants, I knew I had to go to the doctor. Something isn't right.

I pulled the letter out of my files and dialed the number of my old doctors new private practice. After explaining that I had been a former patient of Dr. JW's, I asked the secretary if she was taking my insurance plan.
"Um, No. I'm sorry. She's not accepting any managed care. But she will gladly see you for a physical. Would you like to come in today?"

"Hmm, well. How much is a physical? I would like to continue my care with her if possible."

"A physical would be $1000. And lab work is about $400."
I cough and scoop my jaw off the floor

"I think I'll pass. Thanks though."

No way in hell was I going to pay $1400 out-of-pocket when I have insurance! Guess I'll call the old office. After being hung up on twice, transferred twice, and then on hold for 15 minutes I finally managed to speak with someone. I told her that I needed to make an appointment with Dr. PC. And then, like something out of a sitcom, she tells me, "Well. Right now we don't have a doctor covering. Dr. PC's joining the practice has been delayed, twice. In the meantime you can be seen by a resident until we get an attending on staff."

A resident? A resident?!?! No way, lady. I get that this is a teaching hospital, and I'm all about higher learning, but this is serious. It's my health we are talking about and I want an attending!

Frustrated beyond belief, I agreed to see a resident at 2:30 that day; nevertheless, I did insist on the name of the resident's attending to have for reference.

Two hours and four vials of blood later, I walked out.

Hopefully they can figure out what's wrong with me.

Hopefully I can figure out what's wrong with our healthcare system.

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