Thursday, January 13, 2022

What our doctor's office said

When I was in 8th grade, I had my 'BB Gun' Christmas when I received my much asked for Atari game system with Space Invaders.  My best friend came over, as he did every Christmas until I moved to Florida, to spend hours zapping pixels on a new color television set.  

Shortly before he left, I began to feel a bit off.  Soon I felt hot, and my body was aching.  When he went home, I began to cough and feel sick.  By that Christmas evening, my fever had passed 104 degrees.  All I could do was lay on the couch and hope to die.  My parents, Depression Era though they were, nonetheless felt something should be done.

So my dad called our family doctor.  His call went to the doctor's home since the offices were closed for Christmas - the biggest home in town (a gorgeous Tudor on about a dozen acres of beautiful landscaping).  He answered, and said he would call in a special prescription to our local pharmacy.  Ol'Tom, who owned the pharmacy, would go into the store and fill it for him, and he could  pick it up in about an hour.  Which he did.  Dad got the meds that night and apparently it worked because here I am telling the tale.

I write this to contrast our medical care experience then with what we have experienced since getting hit with Covid.  Like so many things, it's a tale from a world and a nation long since passed.  Here is what has happened to us now.

For two weeks we've not heard back from our doctor.  Our actual doctor is a new dad, and is basking in the light of our modern month long maternity leave for both parents.  Apparently there were no contingencies for the possible loss of one of the doctors in the office.  The office is with OhioHealth.    

The big problem we still have is a lingering cough, which is annoying for those who have it, but worrisome for my mom.  At 91, we don't want a lingering cough to go into bronchitis or worse.  But we can't give her most cough medicines because they appear to cause her blood pressure to spike.  The weaker ones the pharmacist recommended don't seem to help. 

We have messaged and called for almost two weeks asking for advice and if there is possibly a prescription medication that could help her beat this cough, keep it from worsening, but not cause her blood pressure to skyrocket.  After about the seventh call in a week and a half, I received the below message and an explanation from the receptionist that the doctors just don't have time in the day to deal with all the requests.   

Apparently the doctors practice medicine during banking hours.  Five o'clock, time to go.  We'll see if we'll get around to you in the morning.  Or not.  I pointed out to the receptionist that the benefit of being a doctor is living a life of luxury and wealth, living in nice homes, sending your kids to the best universities, taking trips to Europe for fun.  The pay back is that doctors are supposed to be there 24/7 for our health's sake, since most people don't have the good sense to only need medical care M-F, 9-5.  If they haven't gotten to all the urgent health concerns of their patients by 5:00, then they need to stay until 5:30, 6:00, 9:00 or whenever is needed.   

Well, it's been two more days and still nothing.  No televisit options, prescription advice, or anything.   FWIW, below is the message we were sent in response to our pleas for guidance and assistance.  For our part we're improvising the best we can with lots of prayer.  Thank goodness our country isn't what it was when I had the flu in 1980.  

"We can't do this without you.

Our staff works hard to make sure you and your family receive the quality care you've

come to expect from OhioHealth. But COVID-19 makes that mission a lot more difficult,

and we need your support.

We are caring for more people and have more staff shortages than ever before. Please

be patient and understand that you will experience longer wait times, delays with

prescription requests and responding to messages. Calling multiple times or sending

multiple messages on the same request increases delays.

Please help prevent the spread of any illness and do not come into our office with any

cold-like symptoms. Our staff and providers are being exposed and out sick for several

days making our delays even longer. We offer telehealth and e-visits so we can

continue to care for you virtually.

If you are having significant or acute symptoms, please call our office and do not send a

MyChart message as we may not be able to address that message right away.

If you are scheduled for a physical or wellness visit, we may be contacting you to

reschedule to a later date to provide appointments for our sickest patients to be seen as

soon as possible.

We know you are frustrated, and we are too. But with your cooperation, we can protect

the health of our patients and the well-being of our staff.

Thank you for your understanding during this challenging time."


  1. All things have a cost and a cost is not always money. As I try to explain to people (which of course you do understand, Dave) is dunbar's number. A doctor in a small community, with only 200 or so patients, can have that personal touch of going the extra mile for the patient. But have things grow? Make the community bigger such that now the doctor has to take care of well over a thousand people? He or she might not even be physically able to go those extra miles. (i.e. if just 1% of that thousand is sick and requires 1 extra hour of service, that's 100 extra hours the doctor has to work - which is more than exists in a day.)

    Again, I know you get this, Dave. I just get exhausted trying to explain it to others who think you can change and upend society without ever losing anything. But you can't. There is always a cost - and sometimes that cost is the personal touch.

    1. It's funny, because the Dunbar's Number actually debunks one of the old clich├ęs about small town living. Fact is, unless you live in a town with about a hundred people, everyone doesn't know everyone. Our town had slightly fewer than 3000 people, but most didn't know the vast majority of them.

      But I don't think this is a case of numbers. Our doctor's office has four doctors and a cap on the number of patients. Our doctor when I was growing up was one of a handful who served our entire county of roughly 25K population. (plus he was county coroner and head of the county hospital medical staff).

      Nonetheless, he was available when needed. As doctors were expected to be. That's why we didn't begrudge them the big bucks. I went to school with his kids, and there were many sporting events and band concerts that he didn't attend, owing to his practice being 24/7. Again, that was expected. What I'm seeing is the same attitude at our doctor's office as in America as a whole: what's the least we can give and still get back the most? One of the reasons I believe we find ourselves in the mess we're in.


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