Thursday, August 20, 2009

How long are they going to keep me waiting?

Last week I finally had a medical appointment with a nurse practitioner at an extremely large clinic in a far city for an on-going health problem. I've lived with the problem for a long time; I know it isn't going to kill me, but there are reasons to make sure there aren't other problems that are masked by the main symptoms.

This appointment was set up through my regular family doctor, and it took about 5 weeks until I could get in. I had hoped to see the specialist, but I was assigned to the CNP. I thought she was really good. She asked about 100 questions and made a point of making sure she understood my answers. I was impressed. I've actually seen another specialist twice a few years ago, at another clinic, but he asked only a few questions, proclaimed a very general diagnosis, never even checked my body, and sent me on my way with no tests, with no care plan or suggestions or patient information about the supposed diagnosis. Needless to say, I was POed.

The CNP told me what tests were needed; that was not a surprise, because I've had those before elsewhere. She told me to stop taking one medication, but to start two others. She then walked me out to the desk, where she told the clerk to schedule me for four tests and a followup visit. That woman said, "I don't know how. The schedulers are in the back." She asked me if my phone would take a message when they called.

I had no message when I got home. I had no calls the next two working days. But by then, it was obvious I was reacting poorly to one of the medications, so I called the office and said that I was in "extreme pain," that I wanted to stop the medication, that I wanted to talk to the CNP, and that the schedulers hadn't called back. The response was that she would "send an email" to the CNP's nurse and that the schedulers were very busy. Six hours later, I was called by the nurse. Same story. She'll send an email to the CNP. She'll tell the schedulers. The scheduler called at 5:03 pm, made one of the test appointments, but couldn't make the rest because everybody had gone home.

Two days later, I'm feeling much better, but I still haven't heard from anybody else.

I've already written two complaint letters, but I haven't mailed them. I was too hot about this when I wrote the letters, so I know better than to send something like that. Since I'm feeling better, I've decided to wait about another week, and then I'll write to the CEO, not just to the department. Unfortunately, I've learned today that this may not be an isolated incident. I asked a friend if she had ever been to that clinic. She said no, but related a very similar story about a good friend of her's, but in that case, the person had a disease that was fatal if not treated promptly.

In my most desperate and snarky moments while waiting for the call backs, I've contemplated what I might say to the schedulers if and when they do call. I might say, "Oh, you want my sister. She was in extreme pain when she called on Tuesday. She keeled over and hit her head, and is now in surgery." Or maybe it will just be, "Can I have your name and the name of your supervisor and the head of your department, as well as the CEO of the clinic?" I honestly hope that I'm not feeling humbled and grateful that they finally decided to call.


  1. Ugh how aggravating. Hope you get it resolved. Maybe we need something heathcare reform...

  2. With all the medical problems I've had over the past six years, I do have to say I've been quite fortunate that I've generally received pretty prompt attention. Thank goodness for that because if I'm not feeling up to par -a lot of pain and such -and if they were to blow me off, I definitely would let fly on someone! As a matter of fact, I did do just that with the surgeon who did my colon resection. About 2-3 weeks after the surgery (I'd been doing fine and dandy up till then) I started getting such horrible pains in my backside and called the surgeon's office and the staff told me to come in as soon as possible but they hadn't told the Dr. I was coming in. He saw me checking in at the receptionist's desk and asked me what I was doing there then and when I almost bit his head off, he knew something was really wrong and took me back to the examining room right away, then ordered a cat scan immediately, which showed nothing. More tests and time went by -like 2 weeks -before my family doctor ordered a plain old x-ray which showed I had two herniated discs that was creating the initial problem! But, it took about 3 months of therapy, pain meds and such before things finally got to a point where I could walk, sit, lay down fairly well and also, could drive again! The whole situation was exacerbated by the heavy-duty pain killers which constipated me (horribly) and that created more and more issues! Just a big mess but my family doctor and the surgeon kept hammering away with test after test until one finally showed the culprit. Personally, I think healthcare reform is very much needed in this country. If I'd had health insurance and could have had some of the tests necessary earlier, it's quite possible the cancer could have been detected before it grew to a point requiring surgery of the type I ended up having to have. But, with no insurance, who can afford to have cat scans and colonoscopies and stuff like that because the hospitals DO HOLD THE PATIENT responsible for the charges incurred! (Although some way differently -that hospitals have to offer these things whether we can ever pay for them or not and that just is not true!) I have a friend -my age (mid-60s) who had to have a liver transplant as did his wife. In order to afford the drugs they had to take, they mortgaged their home -which had been paid off -three times over a period of years and a year after his wife passed away of pancreatic cancer, their house was foreclosed, leaving him with nothing!


And what do you think?