Health Care Failure
January 25, 2018 | ~6 mins read time.

Backstory Summary

Two weeks ago, amid a flurry of stress, I discovered I was in need of a renewal on my anti-anxiety medication. I have OCD, but I manage it mostly through mindfulness and other techniques taught to me by a wonderful therapist over a decade ago. Once in a while, the universe throws a ton of nonsense in my direction, and I find myself unable to handle it. This time around there are relationship issues, starting a new job shortly, working on publishing a book, dealing with unemployment insurance irritations, mom very ill [is dying], working on self-employment options to escape having to work for others, semi-ancient cat seemingly on the decline, car issues, a couple of health issues cropping up, and a few other things that aren’t really worth mentioning. It all adds up though.

So. I called the clinic I go to, where I had an established patient record, Valley Community Health Center, and asked if I could get an emergency appointment to have prescription refilled for the medication. Bear in mind, my previous prescription had expired a year ago, and I still had 4 out of 30 tablets available. I took the majority of them in April-May of 2016 when I’d been called home to Canada when we weren’t sure if ma was going to live when she was undergoing radiation therapy and hospitalized with a dire outlook, and I hadn’t touched them since.

I was informed that they do not have any records of any visits. When asked how they could have lost all the information, as I’ve had a pap, mental health visit [they prescribed my medication the last time!], STI checkups, general health checkups, and various appointments for other things, including a visit to their dental clinic, I was told:

“We switched systems, so…”

Stellar explanation that. Because they had somehow lost all the information, they refused to see me until the following week. I managed to sort out an appointment with Altru that afternoon after speaking with a wonderful nurse who, upon hearing all the sordid details, decided that she was going to move a tiny mountain to help me. Medication sorted, but still irritated that my clinic had lost my patient history somehow. I had, however, made an appointment for annual women’s checkup and a mammogram for today, January 25, 2018.

Appointment Problems & Deplorable Time Management

My appointment was scheduled for 0745 this morning. The office hours are, according to their website, 0730 - 1730, Monday to Friday. I showed up 5 minutes prior to my apointment to see this:

Deserted Doc Office

0748: Another woman showed up who said she was late for her 0745 appointment. I commented that I didn’t think it much mattered, since they clearly weren’t available yet.
0750: Receptionists finally arrived. Am informed will not be having mammogram, as they don’t have the equipment. Inquire as to why I was told both mammogram and pap would be taken care of if they don’t have the equipment for the former. Am told I would not have been told that. Except I was. Complain about the fact they are late. Zero apology for being 18 minutes late to open their own office.
0753: Seated and waiting to be seen. Was told it would be another 5-10 minutes before I was brought into the exam room.
0805: Finally retrieved from waiting room.
0813: Someone does initial intake. Inform person that time and time management are OCD triggers; murmur that even if they weren’t, their time management is lacking.
0820: NP finally comes in, medical student in tow, to begin. Am informed that there is some information in the system, such as I have OCD, and basic information like name, birthdate, address, etc., but there don’t seem to be any actual visit records.
0844: Exam done. Am told to just schedule own mammogram via Altru site.
0847: Inquire at reception about email address for whomever runs the office so I can issue complaint.

I get home and attempt to schedule the mammogram. The system informs me that I can’t do that, and to send a message to my provider for her to initiate appointment request. So I send the message. Provider calls me confused as to why she got a message to set up the appointment for me. I inform her that the system refused to make an appointment. So now I’m waiting on Altru to call me to schedule an appointment or authorization to do so within their online system. Given that they don’t usually do these things after 1700 or on the weekends, I’m likely to be waiting another 7 weeks, since I will not be able to take time off during job training to get it done. So much for being proactive and planning ahead.

Appointment Aftermath

On my drive home, I decided to just write a post about this. I’ll forward it to the person I got the email address for when I send off my complaint and inquiry as to whether they’ll be alright receiving an invoice for the 20 minutes I waited to be seen. I am somewhat understanding if I have an appointment in the middle of the day, as I know some people aren’t quick and they run over their allotted appointment time. However, when you are one of two people waiting to be seen for the very first appointments of the day and the staff hasn’t bothered to show up on time, you don’t expect to be waiting at all, never mind that long.

The other person was called in within about 2 minutes of reception showing up. My appointment required exam room preparation, which should have been done before I’d arrived or while I was checking in. When I got home, I logged into the Altru system to see what it said for appointment notes. Somehow, the notes have a datetime stamp of:

[Provider Name Redacted], NP at 1/25/2018 8:00 AM

I’d like to know how they managed to pull this off since I didn’t even get into the bloody exam room until 5 minutes past. Falsely reported timestamp is false.

If they’d been on time and prepared for my appointment, as they should have been, I’d have been out of the office by the time I was retrieved from the waiting room in the first place. It was bad enough that I didn’t get seen at the scheduled time, but to have them completely unconcerned and uncaring about the fact they were all late was intolerable.

Feel free to comment on twitter [@daemhan] – I can’t be the only person who finds this sort of thing unacceptable.