In my years in practice, I have had many, many doctors from out of town call me and ask if I could run a lab for them or do a quick X-ray or whatever, and I’ve always been more than happy to do so.
The doctors that I contacted in the area of Michigan where my folks live do not operate by that same code of professional courtesy. I called several urgent care centers, told them I was a physician from out of town and that I would like to bring a urine specimen from my paralyzed father in for a simple urinalysis. In each case, I was told that I would have to pay for the urinalysis and pay for the office visit and bring my father in.
I didn’t care about paying for the urinalysis or the office visit and told them that. As I explained, my problem was getting him there. He is totally paralyzed, which means we can’t just throw him in the car and drive over. We have to call and ambulance, get him loaded, drag him to the office, get him unloaded, get him in, get the urine, then do the whole thing in reverse. A major production just to get a simple UA.
No dice. Totally indifferent and absolutely not helpful.
I then called the doctor on call for his medical group. She called back, but didn’t have his chart available because she was working out of a town a hundred miles away. After I badgered her, she finally sent me to a lab halfway across town where I could get a carry-in UA done. I got the specimen and headed off. When I got there, I was met again with total indifference. There were no records for my dad. And the on-call doc hadn’t called the order in for the UA. When I finally got back through to her, I passed the phone to the gum-smacking, totally disinterested receptionists who took the order.
Of course, no one called me back with the results. I would really have been going ballistic had my father had any symptoms at all, but he was fine. Early Monday morning the home-health nurse came by to replace his catheter, which was a week overdue because she had been on vacation. When she pulled the catheter, it was obvious that it had been partially dislodged, probably during one of the bed changes or nightly turnings. Hell, for all I know, I did it.
Once he got his new catheter in place, his urine cleared and has been fine since. And just last night – Thursday evening, five days after I dropped off the urine specimen – I got the results. Only +1 protein, so certainly not rhabdomyolysis. Had I been able to get just a simple UA on Sunday, I could have saved myself a lot of angst.
The whole experience enlightened me as to what medical care is like now (at least in that part of Michigan). Sadly, it’s probably going to get worse.
Yep. Probably a lot worse. And not just in blue Michigan, either.