When I was a child we had a family doctor. Doctor McGillis. He made HOUSE CALLS! But that was the idyllic 50s and 60s. He didn’t have the depth of knowledge or the advanced science or all the technical diagnostic machines that are available now. But between the maze of health insurance that acts as gatekeeper to the even more complex maze of health care practitioners, are we better cared for? It’s hard to say. Many people have a story about their encounters with health care. Some good. Some not so good.

Here’s my story:

I haven’t seen an actual doctor for at least 5 years. My last doctor quit general practice and I have not been able to get access to any records of tests that he ordered. In spite of making many phone calls to track him down, I have not even been allowed to talk to him. And no one at his former practice seems to have access to my medical records.

For the last 5 years I have been seeing a Physician’s Assistant. While he’s been associated with a doctor, I have never actually seen this doctor. The PA has now moved from one medical office to another (this new medical office happens to be where my previous doctor had practiced). I like this guy pretty well. So I called to get an appointment with him because of a pinched nerve in my neck/shoulder area. It had been killing me for a couple weeks and 5 sessions at a chiropractor hadn’t made much difference. Since this office no longer had a record of me as a patient, I was designated a new patient and new patients had to go on a waiting list for a month!

Fortunately, I was able to persuade the office to see if I could be squeezed in early and, to my relief, I was. So, I checked in to the office at my appointed time, actually arriving early to fill out a bunch of forms. Once I had filled them out I sat and waited for about 45 minutes before I was called in to an exam room. But while I waited I watched a couple of elderly ladies try get their even more elderly mother in to see a doctor. The mom was tiny, bent, thin as a rail, clearly weak and frail physically. She had fallen and was in pain. They had been waiting for over an hour. But her doctor was in surgery and couldn’t see her at all that day. Could they get the mom’s x-rays so they could go to the emergency room at St. Joe’s and see if they could see someone there because we live way out of town and having to come back tomorrow just won’t be possible? Yes, the aide said. We could probably arrange that.

Relieved, I was finally led to an exam room. The clutch of elderly ladies were placated for the moment while they waited some more for the x-rays to be delivered.

End Part 1 (yes, it’s just beginning).