Thursday, May 15, 2014

VA Healthcare Needs an Overhaul, Yet........................

     There is a lot of bad press going on about the VA System. From my experiences, they've just scratched the surface. However, I want to tell you that there are providers that truly care.

     I recently requested a switch to a new provider, as the one I had been with for over a year was not a good fit for me. He had no bedside manner, talked down on me, and could diagnose long term internal problems without ever touching me or running tests. I was able to tell him what meds I needed, usually over the phone. So I requested to be changed to the women's clinic at the VA.

     I was feeling poorly, so I called yesterday morning on the to see if I could be seen. I called the DIRECT number I was given at 0803, and the phone was picked up by the third ring. I was greeted by a nice voice, given her name, and was asked a series of questions.  After approximately five minutes on the phone, I was told that she would give the information to my "team" (team, what?) and someone would call me back. By past experience I didn't expect to hear from anyone for at least two days. Much to my shock, I received a phone call from the RN within 20 minutes. She was very pleasant, not robotic in the least, and told me to come in at 11ish-that day.  She explained she had another patient at 1030 and may be a bit late. At 1110 she came out to get me. She smiled with her eyes when she met me, asked if I needed her to carry my bag, then took me in her office. 

     She seemed that she cared when she asked me pertinent questions, and answered any questions I had with easy language that I could understand.  The whole time she was communicating by computer with my provider, so she would know everything before she came in. 

     Here's the super shocker.  When my provider came in, she was not only aware of what was going on that day, but most things in my chart.  She asked me a multitude of questions and seemed very concerned as to why I had not been given tests for my intestinal problems but had been given four medicines that did the same thing.   Further, she seemed upset that the asthma medicine I was given had been wrongly prescribed and was not a rescue inhaler, which explained why I didn't get immediate relief and why I was there.  Seems it was a maintenance inhaler that I had be overdosing thinking I was using a rescue inhaler.  I had been told specifically by my previous provider that it was a rescue inhaler (as he sneered and talked to me like I was 3). Even more to my shock, she had already set up all the appointments with other specialty providers to get me on track.  She talked with and to me for 37 minutes, asking detailed, caring questions.  Before she left, she said she understood why my self care had gone by the wayside since I couldn't talk to my previous provider, but what she said next, something I've NEVER heard any doctor say to me, almost brought me to tears of relief. 

    She stated "I need you to learn to take care of your health; you can trust me. If you do not take care of your health, I'll feel like I am not taking care of you".  I'm still shaking my head.

     The moral to my rant is that yes, there is a great deal of work to be done in the VA health care system, both administratively and health care wise.  However, there are some excellent providers and staff there. I was a support care staff member for 3 years and the veterans were my #1 priority at all times.  But, as my provided said, we have to take care of our health, and if that means filing complaints with a patient advocate, which can work minor miracles, or meeting with the director, or writing your congressperson, then by all means do it, as many times as it takes to get satisfaction. You have the right to request a new provider.  They do ask that you try to give your provider a year before asking for a change, but will make a balance decision if you need to switch earlier. If you incur any problems, go immediately to your patient advocate.  But do not, ever, give up on getting the care you deserve.  It may take awhile to get it correct, but you are worth it, you've earned it, and they are there to serve you to the best of their abilities, just as you served our nation. 


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