Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Welcome to my world

Throughout my time in the Marine Corps I was generally treated in US Navy facilities by US Navy doctors, nurses, and Navy Corpsman (the “ps” is silent Mr. President).  These people were principled and dedicated professionals and the care they provided was generally pretty good.  Now that I am retired and with most of the Navy medical staff focused on active duty sailors and Marines, the clinic where I am seen is staffed by civilian contractors or Federal employees.  While some are pretty good, today I was struck by the words of an editorial writer who penned that government health care would have the efficiency of the DMV and the bed side manner of the IRS.  I came face-to-face with that reality today. 
Arriving at a government health clinic is more like walking into a combination Bingo Parlor and Department of Motor Vehicles.  I’m often offended to find the Communist News Network (CNN) on the single television in the people warehouse.  For people who receive a prescription, they go to a desk where they receive a number.  The number is preceded by a letter – A, B, or C.  So the air is punctuated every few seconds with “A376” or “C765” or “B776.”  Just to keep us from getting complacent, every once in awhile a bored voice will come over the loudspeaker with a real name – “Michael Jones window three.”  I have always been a “C” – I don’t know why.  Given the amount of time that I routinely wait, “C” must be the lowest priority.   
A sign at the entrance announces that Thursday afternoons are for training and you can damn well take your problem somewhere else – “No Exceptions.”  A second sign points out that long waits for appointments are actually the patient’s fault as 6-7% of appointments made result in “No-shows.”  If that is true, one would think that they would plan for that – the airlines do.  Then you turn the corner to be greeted by the medical Gestapo with a 100% ID card check – at least they said “Thank you.” 
There are no uniformed members there today – they are all either in Afghanistan, Iraq, or some other post or station throughout the world.  There are retirees, wives, and children.  A lot of them.  I go through initial screening with a minor but pleasant bureaucrat.  The process is always the same.  Though they have been trying to go to an all electronic health record for several years, they still haul out the heavy brown folder, now thick with pages that was started for me in 1975.  At every visit they add at least one more page. 
Since I had time and needed to pick up an old prescription, I stood in that line and drew “C598.”  Then I looked for somewhere to sit.  Nearly every chair in the dozen or so rows was filled.  I sat down in a row next to a kid.  I didn’t pay much attention to who the kid was attached to.  As I opened my book, his mother appears and declares “You popped for Strep.”  Now there’s good news.  I thought - Why did you park the rug-rat in the middle of all of us older folks if you thought he had strep?  Mom rushed off – I don’t know where – I moved.   
Then I got called for my appointment.  No matter why you are there they always weigh you, take your temperature, and blood pressure.  I wonder if the strep kid had a temperature.  Then I was deposited in a examination room to wait.  My appointment was routine and didn’t take very long.  I noted that my appointment was for 1:00 PM but we are always told to arrive 15 minutes early – perhaps that is so I can sit with sick people longer.  I didn’t see the doctor until at least 1:15 PM.  On my way out I went to present tab “C598” to window three.  I gave my most radiant smile and said “You probably called this while I was gone.”  The 25ish chunky chick behind the counter gave me the petty bureaucrat frown and said flatly “Next time you will have to get a new number.”  I know I am getting more tolerant with age because I didn’t launch myself over the counter and require a surgeon to get my foot out of her big butt.  Either that, or I’m getting used to government health care – I hope all of you will enjoy it as much as I do. 
Conservative Resistance – Day 511
Days until we disinfect the halls of Congress - 217

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