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Weekend medical advice lacking

Letter to the editor

Saturday I noticed that I was having a medical problem that needed medical help. So I called the office of my doctor of 40 years to see if I could get some advice.

During the 38 years or so when he was in private practice I had called after hours only two times — both time reaching him. This time a Phoebe operator answered, I identified myself, explained that I was a patient of Dr. _ and needed to contact him. “Are you a doctor?” the operator asked. “Yes,” I said, “but not a medical doctor.” The operator replied, “Then I can’t contact him. Go to the emergency room.” He did not even ask what my problem was.

I know hospitals need patients to go to the emergency room, so the paying patients can pay for the ones who cannot or do not pay — it’s called socialized medicine. It is understood also that all of us need private time but if you are privileged to be a medical provider, patient should come first.

After getting nowhere with the Phoebe operator I decided to call Phoebe Northwest’s Call A Nurse number. The recording said, “Enter your mailbox number,” then it hung up since I had no mailbox number to enter.

Next, I called my insurance company’s nurse helpline. The nurse did answer and, basically, said it did not sound too bad and if I could make it to Monday, to go see my doctor.

If I was an administrator at Phoebe, I would be extremely upset at the lack of attention to a patient’s needs after hours on weekends. It is no wonder that health care costs so much when the best advice on a weekend is “go to the emergency room” and then sit there for hours with others who are sick with various problems and hope that one doesn’t leave with more illness than one arrived with.

Maybe I’ll make it ‘til Monday.

BILL BATES

Albany