Over the past several years, there has been much talk about the state of the healthcare system in this country. When President Obama’s healthcare overhaul passed and was signed into law in 2010, it seemed there was reason to hope things would get better. First, let me say I support the President and the healthcare reform bill he signed into law. That being said, on three recent visits to the ER I have been appalled at what I have seen and what has taken place; not just for my care but for the care of a loved one. It is no wonder people complain. The healthcare system in this country is pretty much DOA.
When one goes to the emergency room, he or she goes because there is a medical emergency that requires immediate attention. At least that is what the term “ER” is supposed to stand for; emergency. If a person has a cold or the flu or some other ailment that is not life threatening or causes so much pain he or she cannot deal with it, the first thing that should be done is to call one’s primary care physician. A person should not just go to the emergency because of nausea. However, if one calls his or her physician and are told to go to the emergency room, that is acceptable.
Recently, I was in the ER with chest pains. I had never had these pains before and needless to say, I was a bit scared. I did not think it was a heart attack, yet I was not positive. After being taken, via ambulance, to the emergency room; then poked, prodded, injected and ignored, I was told to go home, you are not having a cardiac episode. When I asked the doctor what she thought it was, her reply to me was this: “I don’t know, but you aren’t dying and that’s all I care about. Go home and call your primary in the morning for a follow-up.” GREAT!! I was not dying. I did not think I was. Yet, I wanted to know what was causing the severe chest pains. It turns out, the pain was being caused by an injury I had sustained a month prior when I was sick with an upper respiratory infection.
Two days ago, I brought my boyfriend to the emergency room with severe testicular pain. He’s had a history of it, but this time it was much more severe than his usual pain. He was examined by the doctor once, sent for an ultrasound, then told to go home, the problem is not life threatening. Here is the real problem: We knew it was not life threatening. He knew he was not going to die. Yet, the pain was so acute and intense, he could not walk. The best part about this most resent visit, when asked what could be causing the problem, the doctor responded: “Oh, I don’t diagnose. I just rule out life threatening problems.” Seriously? There used to be a time when a person went to the ER, the doctor would run a couple of tests to find out what the problem was. Doctors were not so quick to treat ya and street ya. But, those times have passed, obviously.
How do we solve this problem? First, people have to stop going to the emergency room for a sliver or stuffy nose. People have to start using a primary care physician or health clinic. If people started going to primary care physicians instead of the emergency room for small problems, those who use the emergency room would not find themselves waiting twelve hours to be seen by a doctor. People would not just be looked over and sent home if the problem is not life threatening. People may be able to actually be treated.
Was my boyfriend looking for a cure that night? No. But finding out why he was in so much pain would have been a good start. When I was in the ER with chest pains, it would have made me less anxious to know what was causing the chest pain. The President’s healthcare overhaul kicks into high gear in 2014, if the Supreme Court does not rule it Unconstitutional. When this law goes into effect, more and more people will be able to afford health insurance, which should allow them to start going to primary care physicians, thus making the emergency rooms less crowded and allowing doctors to actually treat patients.