Thursday, January 29, 2015

Sick and tired of poor health care access

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From page A8 | May 04, 2014 |

I’m sick this weekend. Not hacking-up-a-lung or I’ve-got-the-flu sick, but sick nonetheless.

I had a sense of it Wednesday night, to the point that I took an over-the-counter medication before bed. I don’t believe that it worked because I was miserable Thursday morning. I barely made it to a 1:30 p.m. appointment with a pair of Assembly district candidates, then went back home and did the remainder of the day’s work from our dining room table. In the meantime, I called my primary care physician midafternoon to see if I could get in later that day (I figured that was wishful thinking), or possibly Friday.

No dice.

The first available appointment was 3 p.m. Tuesday – a full five days from when I made the call Thursday. They said they would try to squeeze me in Friday, so I took the Tuesday appointment and hoped for the best.

There was no improvement Friday, so I went to a quick meeting in the early afternoon and again worked from home. As I worked, I waited for a call from my doctor’s office. The call never came.

So it was off to the urgent care center Saturday. The doctor prescribed a couple of medications, including a high-power antibiotic, and sent me on my way. Given how the medications are supposed to be taken, I figure I’ll get in two full days of doses of each by the time Monday morning rolls around and I (hopefully) return for in-office work.

This is not the first time since I moved here in September 2009 that I have not been able to see my primary care physician when I felt I needed to. I don’t go to the doctor often, because I tend to be in pretty good health – aside from the occasional cold. So when I make the decision that I need to see a doctor, I need to see a doctor.

This is twice that I’ve ended up in urgent care. Once I actually saw my doctor in a timely manner, and once I felt better by the time the doctor could see me. That’s pretty much it in the past four and a half years. This (as I see it) poor track record of being able to see my doctor when I need to is troubling. I pay good money for the insurance coverage that I have through my work, and my boss pays good money to keep the premiums somewhat in check.

What good is it if you can’t use it when you need it? I know, the insurance covers the urgent care visits, but that’s not the point. The point is that I can’t see my doctor when I need to.

Maybe it’s because I get sick at times when a great many others get sick, and the system is overburdened. Maybe it’s the health care network to which I belong. Maybe it’s my doctor. My wife seems to be able to see her doctor with less of a wait, but a wait nonetheless – far greater for us both than we were accustomed to before moving to Fairfield. Perhaps we were spoiled by Central Valley health care?

This week’s medical trials proved troubling beyond the ramifications at work and the need to do a great deal of work from home. I missed Saturday’s Thunder Over Solano at Travis Air Force Base, and suspect I’ll miss Sunday’s installment as well. I missed the Solano County Library Foundation’s inaugural BrewHaHa on Saturday at the Specialty Event Center. I’m writing this column instead of enjoying select brew samples. Had I been able to see my doctor Thursday afternoon or Friday morning, the medications I ultimately received late Saturday afternoon may have had enough time to work their magic and allow me to participate in some extracurricular community activities.

Alas, that’s not the case.

Friends and coworkers tend to get this shocked look on their faces when I describe a Thursday call that yields a Tuesday appointment. That makes me think my network and my doctor are the root causes, which makes me wonder: If it’s so difficult for me to see my primary care physician now, what’s it going to be like now that the Affordable Care Act has kicked into high gear and literally thousands of Solano County residents are seeking care from what’s apparantly a strained local health care system?

I think it’s time to give serious thought to changing health care networks – and doctors – at open enrollment this fall. Kaiser Permanente can’t be any worse than what I’ve experienced with Western Health Advantage over the past four-plus years.

Reach Managing Editor Glen Faison at 427-6925 or Follow him on Twitter at

Glen Faison

Glen Faison

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