By Pat Larsen
For Capital Region Independent Media
Under the category of knowledge is power, I offer this column in the hopes that not another single person has to ever deal with this situation in a health crisis or one like it.
This story is about what I have sarcastically begun to refer to as “the new model of patient care” in a post-pandemic, short-staffed world. I don’t have the answers either to how we even begin to resolve these dilemmas.
Regardless, I hope that by just reading about this potentially catastrophic health emergency, you can arm yourself with better preparation than we had. It all turned out fine. So that’s the important part… but wait, there’s more to the story that begs to be told.
Recently it became necessary to seek the immediate care of a cardiologist at the Cardio Clinic Unit affiliated with one of the major hospitals in our area. My cardio team was contacted by me via phone on the way and they immediately responded by voicemail that the clinic was the best place to get checked out. NOT the emergency room because of the incredibly long wait times associated with ERs at this time.
My situation was not life threatening but still of an emergency nature and so there was no need to call a local ambulance.
I was driven to the cardio clinic and was able to walk in with the assistance of my husband, albeit with some difficulty due to my limitations of movement having had a total knee replacement just three weeks prior.
We entered the building and were directed to the sign-in desk where we would give my information, cover co-pays and state the nature of the visit.
The truth is I was still within a 90-day window of being post-TKR surgery and was now having irregular heart rhythm, which was of concern due to the possibility of a blood clot issue occurring. So the emergency was real and not to be ignored.
Then THIS happened.
We were told that there was a two-and-a-half hour wait in the cardio clinic to be seen. If you know me or you follow me in my columns, you know I’m pretty calm and reasonable unless I get on a rant.
My husband looked at me and I at him and then looked back to the secretary and asked what I needed to do next. She repeated herself that it was too long of a wait to register me at this time?
So, I re-explained what the nature of the emergency was and that I had been told by my CARDIO TEAM affiliated with this facility to get to it immediately. I also explained the complication of the ortho issue and the potential for a blood clot that could have a had catastrophic result to my life.
NO OFFER of a solution was given. Just a repeat of the clinic’s situation and the long wait time…period. Then, I saw a glimmer of hope when compassion seemed to take hold in the rational recesses of this secretary’s mind and she suggested that she’d call a nurse to the desk but not to expect that to actually happen because they were that busy. BUT, she said she’d call and try.
Within maybe three minutes, by some miracle, an RN did indeed come to the front sign-in desk from a separate waiting area that was behind swinging doors at this facility. She took one look at me and told the secretary that she needed to get me inside the clinic as soon as possible.
THANK THE HEAVENS…maybe today was NOT my day to kick the proverbial bucket.
Here’s the other kicker… we walked through those swinging doors. Past maybe 50 EMPTY seats and right into a care unit where several other techs and NP’s were cleaning up for the day.
There was absolutely NO ONE other than the staff in the clinic but me. I was immediately cared for with EKGs and monitors and found to be OK despite the nature of the irregularities of my heart rhythm and within 30 minutes I was sent home with a prescription and a reassurance that coming down to the clinic was indeed a good thing.
So what happened to the two-and-a-half hour wait time? Where were the other patients?
I’m doing absolutely fine. Of course, that’s what counts.
My worry is always that someone else might have just left without reassurances and being checked to be sure they were OK. I was kind of numb but not so much that I didn’t get that I HAD to be seen. My husband and I were perfectly OK if we had to wait our turn as long as we were in a place where if things went awry, I at least had a chance to have a staff member help me.
Are we now, as patients, being subjected to the poor training of those who are at the gate to our access to getting the help we need? What has happened to the standard of care in this area, state, country and world. Is the desperation of these corporate owners of our doctors willing to sacrifice our lives because there aren’t enough applicants to fill the positions?
It’s sickening to think THIS is what we’ve given up in this post-pandemic world. But that subject will have to wait until this true story settles in. Go ahead and share. I’ve deliberately left the vagueness that can apply to many.
And without question I answered the “How’d we do?” survey that this clinic sent. Make sure you do the same. Maybe we can help things to change.
Pat Larsen lives in Greene County where she is a certified clinical hypnotherapist; teaches educational programs and fitness classes to Baby Boomers and seniors at The Shamrock House mornings in East Durham. Please feel free to contact Pat at 518-275-8686.