VA incompetence reigns

So, I didn’t get a return call on the 28th so I called back the next day. This time I let them know I was upset and, yay!, I got to talk to my doctor’s nurse. Turns out my doctor is on vacation… the nurse tells me that she’ll ask one of the covering doctors to look at my file and get back to me.

Fast forward again (did you expect them to suddenly follow through quickly?) to the following week (this past Thursday). I called again, very upset, especially since I’m still not feeling better. I spoke with the appointment taker, a medical interventionist person (administrative type, not medical), and finally, ta-da! the nurse.

She said that one of the doctors did look at my record and had some questions… my response? If he had questions, how come no one asked them of me?? At the end of that portion of the conversation, I came to realize that the doctor that looked at my chart only read what the receptionist folks wrote, which explained my symptoms but none of the history. (By the way, I say “receptionist” or “appointment maker” but when you call, you get a switchboard person… I’m sure they’re competent but I’ve never gotten the same person twice.)

The nurse FINALLY schedules me for a follow up blood test (hadn’t had one since mid-October) for the next day. So yesterday I drove to Frederick (only a 30 minute haul) and had my blood drawn; was told by the nurse that I’d hear something on Monday. By the way, my doctor won’t be back until Wednesday and her earliest available appointment (as of Thursday) is Friday.

We’ll see what Monday holds.

No news isn’t always good news…

So, more tests completed 10 days ago, courtesy of the VA in Martinsburg, WV… and more of the same — no reason found for my symptoms. Heart/circulatory and gastroenterology issues ruled out. Next steps? I don’t know. Called my doctor’s office last week for this very reason; receptionist said I’d get a call back in 15 minutes or so. One week (and two hours) later and still no return call. Given the holiday, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt; but I called back earlier today and am still waiting for a return call — no benefit of the doubt this week (though I’m not sure what my options will be).

More hurry up and wait?

Veterans Administration woes

First, an apology on my lack of posts for 2+ months… I’m thinking I need to focus my blogging rather than just randomly post stuff (though that wouldn’t exclude random posts 😉 ).

Secondly, a belated thank you to all the veterans out there for your service and a belated happy 242nd birthday to my fellow Marines.

Speaking of veterans, that brings me to the post’s title — the VA. I am a retired software engineer but also receive compensation for a service-connected disability and receive my healthcare through the Veterans Administration. After experiencing some symptoms, I made an appointment with my primary care doc at the VA; given my history, she referred me to the laboratory for a stress test and an echocardiograph (as well as some blood tests and subsequently referring me to a hematologist and a gastroenterologist). In mid-September, I underwent both a nuclear stress test and an ECG. A week or so later, my primary care doctor called with the results — I passed my stress test with flying colors but there appeared to be an issue with the echo… she wanted me to follow up with a cardiologist.

The soonest I could get an appointment? Six weeks… When I made the appointment and commented on the seemingly long wait (“I hope I’m not dying”), I was told that I was free to call back occasionally to see if there was a cancellation, otherwise that was as soon as they could see me. I gave them the benefit of the doubt — if they thought my condition warranted, they would have prioritized my appointment and gotten me in earlier.

Fast-forward to today, my followup with the cardiologist. It turns out that my echo was normal given my history; that “normality” was stated in the stress test results (which noted the same specific finding mentioned in the ECG) but whomever read the echo only mentioned the issue and didn’t explain that it was expected. How do I know this? Because the cardiologist read the results to me while I was sitting in his office this morning, an office that is more than an hour from my house. Bottom line, my heart and circulatory system are working as expected and not causing the symptoms I am experiencing.

So what’s the problem? Administratively, my primary care doc should have read the complete results of both the stress test and the ECG, not just the summary findings — she probably would not have referred me to the cardiologist. Further, the cardiologist should have read the results before making an appointment, an appointment that could have been avoided, saving me the stress of waiting six weeks and driving more than an hour each way, and freeing up the doctor to see someone that really needed his time (and perhaps shortening the wait time for an appointment).

Anyhow, I go back Friday — yes, another couple of hours on the road, this time with a driver since I will be sedated, and a few more hours in the hospital — for further testing to determine the cause of my symptoms. I only had to wait a month for this appointment…

More to follow?