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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Adventures in military medicine

The week before last I was ill. Very ill. Tired as all heck, sore throat, fever, headaches, the whole package! When after almost a week had past and I took a turn for the worse instead of for the better, I broke down and decided to go to the doctor. This is a huge deal, since I hate going to the doctor with the fire of a thousand suns. I don't really have anything personal against doctors, I just don't like going. This feeling has definitely been exacerbated the past few years being a military wife.

In civilian medicine, you can call your doctor's office. You can call to schedule an appointment, you can call to talk to the doctor about something, you can call just for kicks. In the Army, you can't do that. To schedule an appointment, you call the appointment line. Cue scary music "dun dun dunnnnnn!" The line is staffed by people that I am pretty sure have experience working at the DMV or other government office. They have computers, and are in charge of scheduling appointments at all the military clinics at a certain base. (It also means we have no number to call with questions, or to talk to a nurse or doctor. At all.)

So last Monday, the hubby called first thing in the morning for me to try to schedule an appointment. Oh yes, I should probably get into that too. The appointment line "opens" at 7 a.m. and it's basically a race to call as soon as you can if you need to be seen that day. The hubby called early, but not early enough. They told him no more appointments were available for that day. They then told him that a different clinic than the one I am assigned to does walk-ins though. We decided to go that route.

I show up at this different clinic, and walk up to the first desk I see and say as best as I can, with tonsils the size of ping pong balls, that I needed a walk-in appointment. The person I talked to looked really confused and sent me to a different lady at a desk. That one looked at me like I had three heads. Like I was the first person in history to ever utter the phrase "walk-in". That lady sent me to a different desk.

I walk over to the new desk, and explain to the guy there the deal. He tells me that he only does stuff like immunizations and throat swabs. Not an actual appointment. Then he proceeds to tell me that since I am not assigned to that clinic, I can't do a walk-in there anyways. WIN.

He then proceeds to look at me a bit weird, and tells me I look pretty bad and should just go to the ER. Oh yay. The words everyone wants to hear. I go to the Army hospital ER. I check in and sit down to wait. And wait. And wait. Finally I am triaged, where I tell the nurse that my husband has to be at work in a few hours, so I need to know how long it's going to be. He tells me that it's against their policy to even guess, and I just need to go sit back out in the waiting room. More yay.

I sit back down for some more waiting and watching CNN on the tv. (it was the day the plane flew over NYC, so it was all about that, in case you were wondering) I wait some more, and overhear a conversation between the receptionist and the triage nurse. A woman had been brought in having chest pains and other symptoms indicative of a heart attack. She'd been waiting over 30 minutes and still hadn't been triaged. That's the kind of awesome care they have, isn't it great?

Not much longer, my name is finally called, and I think I am being called to go in the back and wait to talk to a doctor. I thought wrong. Instead, it's the triage nurse, bringing me an appointment slip. It seems they got me an appointment. In my own clinic. In 30 minutes. You know, the clinic that was supposedly booked solid and couldn't see me? Hahahahahahahahahahaha.

So I basically got to do all of that to get an appointment. Which the hubby could have done over the phone if the Army system of medicine wasn't so jacked up.

I am very thankful for the free health care. Really, I am. But sometimes, we get what we pay for.


Anonymous said...

That *is* jacked up. I don't think of it as free health care--ya'll are paying for it with service to our country. So, it should be much better than it is and it makes me sad. (Can you tell I volunteered at a VA hospital in high school?)

Lacey said...

The system is messed up in general. I thought my care was going to do a 180 when I got my PCM care moved off base. No such luck. While my PCM herself is totally awesome, her nurse is a toad and completely unhelpful. And, being off base I can only see her, hence my visit to the ER a few weeks ago when she was on vacation. At least when my care was on base, I could see any doc in my clinic.

Are you feeling any better?