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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Paper Waste. VA Tree Killers. More random thoughts.

Today I received 6 postcards from the VA Hospital. Count them. Six. They were reminder postcards for the appointments that I have coming up over the next two weeks. One of the postcards was for a new appointment. I got a letter in the mail yesterday regarding this "new appointment" in the PMR General Clinic. It took two days of phone calls to figure out what that appointment was for.

First of all, why does the VA Hospital feel the need to send you no less than three reminders for each appointment? I have stacks and stacks of reminders letters and postcards piled on my desk. Each time I get one, I open it up and compare it to what's written in my planner. The VA likes surprises. They will cancel your appointment and reschedule it. Then you'll get several postcards telling you your appointment has been canceled. You'll get several postcards and maybe a letter or two with instructions for the new appointment. Half the time they use such obscure abbreviations that I have to call the VA Hospital to find out what clinic the appointment is in.

Let's not forget those automated phone calls! Those come three days before your appointment. You know the calls. That automated voice reminding you that "The Patient born on December 18th, 1958 has two appointments on" ... But they don't tell you what the appointments are for. Wouldn't that be the time to tell you what clinic you are scheduled to go to in case you didn't get the mound of paperwork they sent you?

There must be an easier, more efficient way to do things. The VA is spending shitloads of money on paper reminders and automated systems to remind us multiple times of our appointments. Is it working? What is the no show rate? Where are the statistics? Is it overkill? Can that money be better spent somewhere else in the hospital? Perhaps they can use it to hire more doctors and reduce the waiting times for us. I know I'd love to cut my waiting time back.

Speaking of waiting times...

You go the the VA Hospital and you check in 20 minutes in advance like they tell you to do. You're there on time. The nurse calls you in for triage. No patient privacy there. You share a room with another Veteran while the nurse asks you personal questions about your health, gets your weight, blood pressure, temperature. Then you go back to the waiting room. So aptly named. The sign says, "If you have not been seen 20 minutes past your appointment time, please tell the clerk at the desk." You learn that it's not worth your time to tell the clerk. The clerk will tell you "doctor is behind in appointments today." I've waited as long as two hours to be seen. By the end of that two hours, I'm in so much pain from sitting, I can hardly move.

I get up and walk back to the doctors office when my name is finally called. The doctor tells me what I've heard before. "We don't know what is causing your pain. Here is a script for more pain meds. We're going to treat you symptomatically. I don't want to to be treated symptomatically. I want answers.

My PCP physician sent me back to the pain clinic because my monthly drug tests are coming back "abnormal." My urine is full of opiates as it should be. The Ph is normal. But my urine is "diluted." It has been for the last 3 months. That would suggest that I'm pouring water into my urine before I turn it in for the drug screen. I have offered to let them monitor me when I piss into the bottle. I have told them to take a sterile sample from me. Not one doctor has thought to look into the fact that something else might be going on. I have diluted urine, no appetite and I've lost almost 40 pounds in the last 3 or 4 months. Isn't it time to start looking into a medical reason for diluted urine? Isn't it time to stop pointing fingers and stop accusing me of ... of what? I have the appropriate amount of opiates in my system, my ph is normal. It stands to reason there is an underlying medical condition going on. I drink a ton of water every day. I must drink 8 or so bottles of water, if not more. Of course my urine is going to be diluted. Stop the finger pointing, Doctor, and get to the real reason for the diluted urine.

Until the next time.

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