The New-Patient Appointment (Part I)

I need a new primary care physician on account of I haven’t got one.  The last person who said she would cover me quit when she found out that I couldn’t take drugs.   (see “The Desta Anthony’s of the World, Parts I, II, III” at ) so one of the doctor’s from the hospital has been writing orders while one of his minions tries to get me a new doctor.

One day the minion called to say that she’d just found some papers on her desk—she’d found me a doctor but had she told me?  Ah, no, she hadn’t.  The entire humongous medical industry is based on one thing—the patient—and the patient is always the last to know.  The end-point-user who drives the whole system is not in the driver’s seat.  This makes me crazy on a regular basis.

So a few days ago I showed up at the office of Dr. Suzanne Lamanna for a new-patient appointment.  I wheeled into the waiting room and up to the receptionist’s desk—well, actually, you know, it’s not a desk anymore.  Presumably there is a desk, but what you wheel up to is a window in the waiting room wall.  When did we decide that the receptionist is not on the patient’s side and needs to be walled into a separate room behind a closed window?  (News to young people:  it didn’t used to be that way.)

So, okay, the receptionist asks for and gets my name, rank, serial number and insurance cards.  She does not hand me fourteen reams of forms on which to record everything from my mother’s maiden name to the age at which I had my last menstrual period.  She does tell me to sign the box.

Say what?

What box?  Oh, the little black box on the counter.  It’s one of those electronic things like the one you sign for your charge card at the cash register in the department store.  So I ask the receptionist what it’s for.  She says, “HIPAA.”

I ask her where the paperwork is.  She looks at me dumbly and says “Duh?” 

Where do I get to read what I’m signing, I ask?

Ah, uh, um, she says.

When I sign something then I get a copy of what I’m signing, I say.

Uh, um, ah, we don’t do that, she says, adding “You have to sign it!”

My mom said of herself, “I am not cooperative but I am reasonable.”  What she meant was that you don’t get to order her around, however, if you appeal to her intelligence and give her a good reason then she will do what needs to be done.  I am my mother’s daughter and when people—particularly young, stupid receptionists—give me orders then I tend to get pissy.  I say to the receptionist, “I do not sign blank contracts.  I want to see what I am giving away and what I am getting.”

She consults with someone off-camera and states emphatically that they do not have hard copies.  “Then you do not get my signature,” I reply crisply and wheel away from the window.  What I mean is, ‘I ain’t your bitch.  Treat me with respect or treat me not at all.’

So while I sit in the waiting room I read an old news story that has been laminated and posted on the wall.  It says that Suzanne Lamanna is a nun who got permission from her religious order to become a physician.  She wants to treat the whole person, physically, emotionally and spiritually.  The reporter asks if he should address her as “Sister” or “Doctor.”  That’s a no-brainer for me.  I am seeing her in her capacity as a physician and I will call her doctor.  Her religion is her business, not mine.

In just a few minutes, a female person wearing scrubs comes and ushers me into the treatment room.  She does not tell me her name.  She and I both know that she intends to lay hands on me but she doesn’t introduce herself.  Where else in our society do we have physical contact with complete strangers?  Name one single situation, outside of medical care, in which you let a person you don’t know touch you.  Oh, that would be in prison or whenever you experience a police intervention.  So what medicine shares with law enforcement is coercion by strangers.  How nice.

I ask the girl her name.  “Nicole,” she says, adding that she’s studying for her LPN at BOCES and today’s her last day in this placement.  She does not ask anything about me, like why I’ve come to the doctor’s office, what’s wrong with me, or what I need.  I don’t matter; she matters.  Then she tells me that today’s appointment will “just be a meet-and-greet.”

Say what?

What the heck is a “meet-and-greet” at a doctor’s office?  The student tells me that she will take me around and introduce me to everyone.  You’re kidding me, I’m thinking, and will there be punch and cookies at the end?  Do Medicare and Medicaid know that they are paying for appointments at which no services are provided?  How about the fifty dollars that the taxpayers forked over for Medicaid transportation?  How about the fact that I need a doctor’s order for the home health care agency to change my catheter?  How about the painful ulcer in my mouth that, despite my dentist’s best efforts, hasn’t gone away?  How about the two months I’ve waited for this appointment?  Do you expect me to wait another two months for an appointment for diagnosis and treatment?  And why wasn’t I told on the phone that this wasn’t an appointment for treatment—this was just a social get together?

I sit there speechless, my gast having been utterly flabbered.  (To be continued)

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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2 Responses to The New-Patient Appointment (Part I)

  1. Maria Miller says:

    Ann – Happy Holidays. Call Life Extension at 800 544 4440 and tell them you know Bill Faloon (he is the President) He is a genius, a health crusader, great integrity, etc,etc. Ask them for a list of alternative, holistic practitioners in your area. You don’t need to throw Bill Faloon’s name but it carries a lot more weight and they might take extra time in finding the best. I know Bill very well – at least 25 years. You would love them. He has so much conviction and integrity, that he has been imprisoned by the FDA for exposing the greed and corruption. He fights him on a daily basis.

    • annecwoodlen says:

      Maria, while I honor the fact that you’re trying to help, I’m a bit put off by your comment. (a) I don’t know Bill Faloon,and it’s not my style to make false claims. (b) The FDA has no capacity to imprison anyone. (c) “He fights him . . .” Who? And what is Life Extension and how does it happen to be maintaining a national list of practitioners? Anne

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