Wednesday, March 23, 2005

A Visit to the VA Clinic

I had an appointment with my primary care physician, Dr. Mahoney, at the VA Clinic in Key West today. He has me on a twice-a-year check-up schedule, which seems to be working well. Overall, I'm in pretty good shape for the shape I'm in. I have the aches and pains that go with being 65. It takes a few minutes in the morning, or when I get up after sitting a while, for my legs to get going. My cholesterol is high, but my blood pressure and heart rate are good. I could stand to lose some weight. I ought to quit smoking. Those kinds of things.

My appointment was for nine o'clock. Like the good do-bee I try to be, I arrived at 8:50, then waited in line until 9:02 to get checked in. There was a new representative working the check-in desk, under the guidance of the regular rep, who is good at her job. The new rep was having a few problems getting the computer to do what she wanted, but in the end she and the more experienced rep told me that everything was OK, and that I should have a seat and wait for the nurse to call me.

I waited for 45 minutes, then asked Margie, the nurse, if I was on the list inside to be seen. [It had happened once before that I got overlooked and had to wait for over an hour to be seen.] She said she'd check. When I next saw her, a half-hour later, she told me that she had no paperwork on me, but the doctor would see me next, after the patient she was bringing in then. She brought me into her office about 15 minutes further down the line. She weighed me, took my vitals, gave me a flu shot and a pneumonia vaccine, then asked me to go back to the waiting room to be called by Dr. Mahoney. He came out twice in the next 30 minutes, called two other people. Then it was my turn. I had been there for almost three hours.

That said, I continue to be impressed with the treatment I get at the VA Clinic. It is "season", after all. The Clinic is overworked and understaffed, but I still get the full attention of the nurse and doctor when I do get in to see them. I spent at least 20 minutes with the doctor, and the cost of the visit is $15. (It's $50 to see any specialist in the VA system, whether a podiatrist or a heart surgeon. Prescriptions are $7.)

I need to have an ultrasound done, a follow-up to the MRI I had in Miami last year. Doctor was going to order it at the VA Hospital in Miami, but I asked him to just write an order for it and I'd try to have it done locally under Medicare. I became eligible for Medicare last November, but haven't had the need to use it. To avoid an all-day trip to Miami, I'd even be willing to pay for it to be done locally if Medicare doesn't cover it. I think they will.

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