What Does Low-Cost Clinic Mean?

Since I can’t find any feedback forms or complaint forms to use, it looks like blogging this is the only way to get it out there.

About 10 years ago, I ended up going to Parkland, the Dallas County hospital, when lupus got into my kidneys.  I needed treatment; I had no insurance; there was no other choice.  It was a pain to have to go all the way to Dallas every time and fight the crowds.  And the parking.  And spend so many hours just sitting there, waiting.  (Is it time again to drag out my “one time I read 800 pages of a Harry Potter book while I was waiting at Parkland” story?)

When I found out Parkland was building a clinic in the city where I live, I was overjoyed.  So much closer to home.  I’d still have to wait, for sure, but the commute was much shorter, the parking better, and I wouldn’t be so far away if my daughter needed anything.

/sigh

It was another dream turned nightmare.  The clinic is a joke.  I’m not one of those people who thinks, “Hmm, I have nothing to do today, I think I’ll go apply for financial assistance at the clinic, just on a lark.  See whether I’m eligible.”  No, I’m one who waits till I actually need medical care to apply for it.  You know, between my international jet-set travels and my numerous volunteer committees and the fancy-pants dinners I go to all the time, I just don’t have time to goof around.  I wait till the necessity arises.

That’s a joke, people.  In case you don’t get it.  I don’t hop on down and apply because I’m too busy trying to save spoons for my part-time job, rationing out food stamps on my grocery purchases, and fixing my old clothes so they’ll last just a little longer.  And giving my dog homemade haircuts so I don’t have to pay a groomer.  (Sorry about the skinned-butt look, dude.  It will grow out.  Soon.  I promise.)

At any rate, if you don’t keep up with my blog, you may still be confuzzled, but a couple weeks ago, I ended up in the ICU after barfing up more than a liter of blood.  Docs are pretty sure it happened because of liver disease.  I need to be watched, probably for the rest of my life, to make sure I don’t start barfing blood again (they can prevent it), and my liver has to be checked, too.

I’m not applying for financial assistance just for a good time.  I’ve been home from the hospital a little over a week now and I still feel kind of woozy and weak.  But I need the aid so I can get the doctors’ visits, so I dragged myself to the clinic at the crack of dawn on Monday.  Too late; all the appointments were gone.  So I dragged myself to the clinic at the crack of doom on Tuesday, which is about an hour earlier than the crack of dawn.  Stood out in the cold, pre-dawn darkness, weak, shaky, leaning on my cane so I didn’t fall into the other patients, and waited.

There were about 50 people in line, all wrapped in coats and blankets.  Finally at 7:30 am, some dude opened the door.  He let people go in who had appointments, then people who didn’t have appointments but needed to see a doctor, and then women who’d come to the women’s clinic.  (Not sure why they warranted a special category.)  And finally, there were 25 of us left.  We all needed financial aid.

Then some chick steps up and says, “I can see 8 people today.  The rest of you can come back another day or you can go to the main hospital in Dallas.”  And that was that.

I was somewhere around 15th in line.  I didn’t get in.

So you make me stand out in the cold and the dark when I’m sick and weak and miserable, just to tell me, sorry, Charlie, not today?  And then what?  Go home and tell my varices there’s nothing wrong with them after all, they just need to stop bleeding?  Tell my liver to hush up, it’s just fine?

Taken from their very own website:

“Parkland is more than just a hospital. People can receive care in one of Parkland’s 12 health centers, 12 school-based clinics and other locations across Dallas County. Our network provides many health services, including check-ups, sick visits and urgent care.”

“Parkland’s Irving Health Center provides health care to children, adults and seniors. These services include physicals, preventive care check-ups, sick visits, chronic disease management and urgent care.”

As usual, it tells you what to do but it doesn’t say how.  How are you supposed to get help if you’re sick?  How can you get aid when they only take a fraction of applicants each day?  I wouldn’t complain so much about standing out in the cold when I’m sick if I could actually GET HELP.

So I’m still sick.  Still hoping everything is healing okay and I’m not going to start vomiting another volcano of blood at some random moment.  I could have been seen in the morning and still had time to do my afternoon shift at work, but no.  Now I’ll have to take off a whole day so I can go sit in the main hospital and wait for 5-6 hours, still weak and shaky and more tired than you can imagine, and hope I can at least get some help there.  I hope I don’t miss them calling me because I’m asleep again.  I mean, I’ve got it down to about 4 naps a day, but still, I can’t always pick what time I pass out.  If all goes well and I do hear my name and don’t miss my appointment, even if I take everything but the kitchen sink with me, they will likely want more paperwork, which means I’ll have to take a second day off, but hey, if it gets me in to see a doctor before I die from cirrhosis, I suppose it’s worth it.

But as for the community clinic?  I don’t know what community they serve, but it’s not me.  I give it a grade of F.

update, Feb. 4, 2016: 

I tried the old hospital in Dallas on Wednesday, and I still did not get in early enough to be seen.  I’m still not 100% recovered, but I went as early as I could get my body in gear.  All that walking completely exhausted me.  Then to be told I was too late was completely demoralizing.

Sometimes ‘first come, first served’ isn’t the best idea.  When you’re dealing with sick people, those who are actually sick should come first.  Why do they not triage the applicants?  Those who are actively sick need to be seen first, before those who need a physical for football or cheerleading or just a yearly checkup.  Those who have been in the hospital, like me – especially those at risk of ending up right back in the hospital if they don’t get treatment (again, like me) – should be seen first.  It is not fair that the sick cannot move as fast as the healthy, cannot get up as early, and cannot play by the rules meant for healthy people.  We’re the ones who will drive up the costs because delaying treatment for existing problems results in more ER trips and more hospitalizations.  If we need financial assistance, it most likely means we don’t have the means to pay for all this medical care in the first place.  What do you as taxpayers prefer: paying $150 for a doctor visit, or paying 5 or 6 digits for hospital care?

Don’t tell me preventive care would have helped.  I had no symptoms, which is common with liver diseases.  You don’t know anything is wrong until you erupt like a volcano of blood, and by then, it’s critical.  But now that I know, the problem can be managed – IF it is managed.  Continually punishing me because I’m too sick to get there at 5 a.m. is not helping.  They need some other way to handle this situation.

Now.

update to the update:

BaylorScott&White, where I spent the week after barfing myself silly, and who referred me to Parkland, has applications for financial assistance available IN PERSON, OVER THE PHONE, BY MAIL, and ONLINE.  Parkland: take note.  It CAN be done.  Don’t tell me it can’t.  Parkland just opened a great big fancy-pants new hospital, all landscaped and everything.  Tell me again how those plants and rocks are helping the patients.  Explain to me why you couldn’t have used some of that money to hire more financial counselors.

 

 

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