Do you remember Dr. Peterson? He was our family physician for about twenty years. Years ago I was standing at the top of a ladder, trimming a tree with a hand ax, when the ax slipped and I cut my knee. I went to see Dr. Pete. He walked into the exam room and said, “You knucklehead, what did you do now?” We both had a good laugh and then he fixed my knee. Good old family doctors – doctors one might feel a kinship to, a relationship with, trust and confidence were a part of the visit – you just knew he really cared about you personally. That world is long gone.
The first problem is that if a person does not have financial means, or health insurance, or own property, or have a brother in the United States Senate, then that person will not be talking to a doctor in the first place.
Physicians offices are complex maizes of intrigue and secrecy. Almost everyone has been there. Before you are invited to have a seat in a nice waiting room you are asked how you intend to pay for your visit. It reminds me of the old Errol Flynn Robin Hood movies where the peasants line up to offer their chickens and goats. If you demonstrate financial means you have the right to sit and wait for your blessings of the prince of health care.
After forty minutes the the nurse calls your name, you are led down a corridor of moaning rooms to your very own cubicle. The nurse weighs you and takes your blood pressure and asks you why you think you deserve an audience with the Lord of the Office. Your temperature is 104, sweat is pouring out of every pore, and you can hardly breath – but she has to ask – it is her dictate.
She disappears and after another wait a physician shows up. (I use this time to build stick houses with the tongue depressors.) I think, where did he come from? We call these places Doctor’s Offices, but you and I have never actually seen a Doctor’s Office. I think they must have a wardrobe in the back room that has a secret door in the back. It opens to the land of Narcissus, where the physicians live.
The physician looks at your chart and furrows his brow, then proclaims, “I was playing golf yesterday with my pharmaceutical sales representative and the drug company has a new product that is just what you need. Take your meds and I want to see your $25 co-pay again in ten days.” Back to the wardrobe.
I pay my $25 deductible at the pharmacy and go home to nurse myself. It’s a good thing I have health insurance.
I miss Dr. Pete.