Fridays Weekend Column
About a Minnesota Man Exploring Life in the South
For the last thirty some years I have been using the Veterans Administration Hospitals and Clinics for my health care, but there is always a time factor involved. Unless you are at death's door, you are going to have to wait for any appointment you need or want.
While I was Commander of VFW Post 3869 up in Northome, Minnesota, I would hear from members every month about their trials and tribulations in dealing with the VA. It depended what you needed , but I remember guys who had serious foot problems from their time in the Korean War, where frost bite was common, waiting way over a year to get their next appointment with a podiatrist.
I have been having ongoing urinary tract problems, and the earliest they could get me into see a urologist would be October. That is a long time when you are hurting, so I went to my first private doctor in long, long time. If it weren't for the problem I am having, the experience would have been wonderful. Do you know they actually have new magazines in their waiting room? And get this, art work on the walls, smiling faces at the check in, and I wasn't through the first article before they called my name.
Here was the best thing about visiting a private Doctor. English was his first language. I can't tell you how many VA doctors I have had to tell that I couldn't understand what they we saying. I have had doctors from Vietnam, China, India, Iran, Iraq, North Africa, and Eastern Europe at the VA, and I don't think any of them had been here all that long. Some of them would actually ask me why I couldn't understand them, and I would have to say, "because you don't pronounce words well enough for me to know what you are saying." I didn't like saying that, but I found that if you demanded a real American doctor, they would find you one, or at least somebody to translate what the foreign doctor was saying. They might be great doctors, but if they can't speak English, your confidence in them gets pretty low.
Enough VA ranting, and back to this private doctor. He didn't know me from Adam, but he examined me, and then sat me down in his office and explained what he thought, and what tests he wanted to do. What was really nice is that he asked if I understood everything. The tests were not months away, not even weeks for some. But in just a few days. He is going to look into my bladder, and there are not many ways to get a look there, so that is not a test I am looking forward to, but even that one is only three weeks from when I first saw him.
The other tests are already done, and they were at the Valdosta Hospital, up the road from us in Georgia. The people checking me in were upbeat, and that made the little paper work easy. I was called for lab work, and they took me into this nice looking spacious clean room, and I was the only guy there. They drew two vials of blood from my arm. Now here was what was so nice, first they explained why they needed the blood and what tests they were going to do with it.
Back to the VA. One time I went to Blood Drawing at the Minneapolis VA Hospital, and what you do is walk into this room and take a paper number from this machine on the wall. I drew number 98, and looked up and saw they we at number 89 then, so just a few minutes wait. When they called my number another guy went up, and that is when I found out I was number B-98 and they were then at A-98. So, there were another 100 guys ahead of me.
Now compare that with my current experience in the private world. After the lab work at the Valdosta Hospital, they told me how to get up to Xray. There I checked in, and they sent me to a nice waiting room with comfortable chairs, and a TV and a table full of magazines. I'm thinking all of this is great, but maybe the other people waiting were having a hard time because they didn't have the VA to compare their treatment with.
After a few minutes some lady came in and asked if anyone had been waiting for more than a half hour. Nobody raised their hand. There were people who had been there for a long tine, but they were waiting for people already in getting tested.
The test I was having involved dye put in my blood stream and then x-rays taken to see how it went through my kidneys. I must admit that the x-ray room was so much nicer, and the technician and the nurse who put in my IV went out of their way to explain every step of the test, and when it was all over they let me look at all the pictures they took. Some doctor would have to interpret those photos, but they pointed out all the parts of my body, which was pretty cool.
The next day I was back at the doctor's office for another test, and there was no set time, just whenever I showed up. The doctor didn't have to be there for this test, and I just popped in and said I was there. They said, "give us a minute to set everything up," and they called me in no time at all. As I was leaving I told the lady that does the paper work how nice this was compared to the VA and she had a hard time understanding that. So I said, "Think of it this way, if this were the VA, you would have 75 or a hundred patients out in your waiting room with a new one coming in every time somebody finished, and it would be that way every day."
There it is, that is the difference. The hospital and the private doctor can weed out everyone who does not have insurance, where the VA has to take any veteran who needs help. There are millions of vets and not that many VA Hospitals and Clinics. I don't know if I can afford the co-pays to keep using private medical help, but I know it is a real treat after getting medical help from our government.
I know I would never get this private doctor's help if I didn't have insurance, and I have gone to emergency rooms in private hospitals in the past, and the help you get there is nothing like I experienced in the past couple of weeks, but I am thankful for the help I am getting. I sure hope and pray that Obama Care does not change private medical care into something akin to the VA system.
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