By Ellen Lenox Smith.
Imagine trying to locate a doctor to only find out there are none with openings and you have serious medical issues that need attending. It is difficult enough to learn to cope with a medical condition you wish would just somehow magically disappear. But to add to this problem, having difficulty locating a doctor to take you on. Some doctors are moving to a new state, retiring or as we are currently experiencing in RI, the serious problem of having doctors move to a new state due to the incredibly low reimbursement rates currently in place in RI. If crossing over the border to the next state provides can a higher compensation for the same services, wouldn’t you, as a doctor, consider the move, too? The dynamic of doctors, understandably seeking reasonable compensation for their highly skilled services, leaves patients left out in the cold with no recourse. And where are you, the patient left?
This is a real problem many are facing more and more across the country. As doctors are getting overwhelmed with rules and regulations that can tie their hands from performing medicine as they prefer, patients are being left in the dust with serious issues trying to find someone to take them on. For example, just last week at a visit to my pulmonologist, I experienced what life was like for him and others as co-workers are leaving and not being replaced. Either they are unable to find someone else to hire, since in many cases like here in RI, they would only make much less salary that they can make elsewhere or in our case, the governor is left to believe that there is no problem to be concerned about this. Yet, the two remaining pulmonologists left in his practice are now being expected to take on the care of the patients that were once treated by four doctors. Through his frustration, it was mentioned that the other doctor’s test results for their patients are still pending conversations due to just plain lack of time to make routine follow up contacts. I saw this dedicated doctor so overwhelmed with his circumstances and at a high frustration level as to what he might do to address this problem, a problem which for his practice has reached crisis proportions.
If we don’t equalize care across the country, we are harming our population. Why should the process of finding a doctor in one geographic area prove relatively simple while in the same process in another area of the country be almost impossible? Then consider someone like me and you with complicated conditions attempting to locate a doctor to take us on. Why would medical professionals want to take on a difficult case over someone who would be much less time consuming to treat, thus more cost effective to care for, most likely? Doctors are not the problem. The quality of any care at all should not depend upon where a patient lives. The system is flawed and, in some areas, broken. Without systemic change, this unfair system of treatment will continue to contribute to patient anxiety and pain.
Consider sending a letter to the editor, writing the governor, making calls to your representatives and senators and whatever else you can think of to express your concern if you, too, are in a state dealing with this crisis.
May Life Be Kind to you,
Ellen Lenox Smith
Author of: It Hurts Like Hell!: I Live With Pain- And Have a Good Life, Anyway, and My Life as a Service Dog!
The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of National Pain Report.
Ellen Lenox Smith and her husband Stuart live in Rhode Island. They are co-directors for medical cannabis advocacy for the U.S. Pain Foundation, along with Ellen on the board and they both also serve as board members for the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition. For more information about medical cannabis visit their website. https://ellenandstuartsmith.squarespace.com/