Medical care system? Diagnosis: Broken!

English: Walk-in Medical Care Center in New Yo...
A “Doc in the Box” – the proliferation of these types of walk-in clinics tells a sad tale about the state of our health-care system. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m normally not one to air dirty personal laundry online. And though I love writing humorous rants on subjects that piss me off (hey, it helps me deal, OK?), I don’t really focus on the negative in everyday life. In fact, most of our friends consider me perpetually cheerful.

That said, I am about to be really pissy. The medical care system in this country is just flat out broken.I’ve had multiple oh-so (not) fun run ins with the ridiculous machinations of this “system.” One of the many, many, many reasons I am leaving my current primary care provider is that said provider is not affiliated with any hospital, has no admitting rights anywhere and their method of “referral” is to write a prescription for the tests, type of doctor, mechanism, etc. you need and to pat you on the head and tell you to go find your own care.

Yeah. The last time I called them because I was in serious pain, they wouldn’t fit me in that day, and the next day when I did go in, I was sent home (on my own, by the way) and told to go to the ER. No offer to call an ambulance. No offer to call ahead to ease the way.

Seriousness of the illness? Six hours in emergency room and nearly a week in the hospital followed.

Add to the fact that their office is not equipped to do anything more than administer flu shots and take your vital signs and you can see why I might want to switch providers.

And so ensued the great provider search. We have awesome insurance. And I mean AWESOME. So finding providers to accept it was easy. Finding one taking new patients… not so easy.

A friend made a recommendation, we called, we liked the office. They have admitting rights and seem to have a history of actually caring for their patients. And so we set the initial appointment… with over 8 weeks of lead time. The office will not see you until you have had the initial appointment.

Which means… If I need a doctor right now, my choices are… Drive 30 miles out of my way to go to my old doc, who will do nothing for me if it’s anything more serious than a cold. I can “self-refer” to an unknown specialist (which my insurance will cover) and hope for the best (and that I chose the right specialty), or go to the emergency room. There is one other option… the walk-in “urgent care” centers, which are hell on earth, pure and simple. I went that route during that same episode above, when my primary doctor wouldn’t fit me in for a same-day appointment and I was in pain. The urgent care center patted me on the head and sent me home, saying I was just fine.

I have this pet peeve about using emergency rooms for general medical problems that are not, in fact, oh… emergencies. I tend to have this little opinion that clogging an ER with a bunch of sniffles, minor aches and pains and other things best treated through the family doctor, or via doctor-referred admission to the hospital kinda gets in the way of actual emergency medicine. Y’know, the whole “emergency” room concept.

So, imagine my attitude when a few weeks ago, I tweaked my knee when getting out of the elevator. Since I was up and walking on it that day, and the swelling wasn’t too bad, I treated it as I would a sprained ankle… y’know RICE – rest, ice, compression, elevation. It was annoying, but slowly seemed to be improving.

Then suddenly things took a turn for the worse. I don’t know what happened and I don’t really care. What I do know is that the pain has gotten worse, and changed character. And there isn’t a thing I can really do about it but wait.

While all of this might sound like a “first world problem” to some, here’s what really gets me… If a well-insured, responsible person, who doesn’t go to the doctor for every bump and bruise, doesn’t require odd medications or treatments and who would happily get 99% of her medical care from her primary physician’s office is having this kind of stress and problems, what in the hell is life like for those who don’t have good insurance, or who need specialty care?

Have the people who created this hell not heard that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure? Preventive medicine is called that for a reason – it’s meant to deal with things before they become a big issue.

Awesome insurance or not, our health care system is a shambles. It is a broken mess that serves neither the patients nor the doctors.