- Del Meyer, MD - http://delmeyer.net -

Emergencies May Represent Desperation

by Del Meyer

One morning when I was in the US Air Force working in the internal medicine clinic, a call came in about 11 AM from the operating room asking me to come to the OR in all haste to manage a cardiac arrest. The chest had been opened and the surgeon was vigorously compressing the heart. I managed the monitoring equipment and ordered the intravenous infusions to restore cardiac activity. The heart was responding and the surgeon was preparing to close the chest. I sent a message to the clinic to reschedule all my routine appointments. Rather than go to the mess hall for a lunch break, I would see any emergencies at that time. When I arrived about 12:30, who was there for me to see rather than have lunch?

I found the cancer, heart, diabetic, and emphysema patients had all been rescheduled for later in the week. The patients with backache for 20 years, neck pains for 15 years, abdominal pains for 10 years, and arthritis for decades were all waiting for me to take care of the crises in their lives. Their charts were all two to four inches thick. They all had the necessary tests done several times over and nothing that was reversible could be found. They were very disappointed when I reviewed the extensive charts revealing that all the necessary tests had been done repeatedly. Yet they all had a crisis in their lives they thought I could take care of in a few minutes on that day on an emergency basis and restore their health. However, they all had permanent impairment and were unable to accept the fact that numerous physicians had advised them that their back, neck, and arthritis would never function as new or that the abdominal pain was chronic but could be controlled with the medications they were already getting yet refused to take because they didn’t want treatment, they wanted cure.

What went wrong? Practicing medicine is a very difficult profession. It’s hard to clinically ascertain where each patient is at in his or her thinking during the appointed allotted time. If the physician doesn’t connect with the patient, the patient will not accept or even hear what is said. Some of us are more successful with some types of patients and others of us are more successful with other types of patients. When the trust connection cannot be made, the patient should take some responsibility to be frank with the doctor and perhaps make a change in physicians.

In the military, it may be hard to choose a personal physician. But there comes a point, after numerous tests have been done several times, that one must disengage from frequent medical calls. This may also be difficult to do because the visits are free and can go on for 20 or more years during a military career. Many of these charts represent a medical cost equal to a luxury car or to a home. It is indeed unfortunate that in health care one can utilize this degree of resources without significant responsibility. One presidential candidate wants to extend the amount of irresponsibility while the other candidate wants to reign in some of these costs. Future financial consequences don’t matter in the heat of the campaign. The fact that all entitlements are facing an endpoint doesn’t register with all Americans. The fact that government medicine causes multi-year waiting in many countries doesn’t register either. They all think there are hidden government resources that still can be tapped. That’s only because of dishonest politicians who don’t speak truthfully to their constituents. We can’t entirely blame a president with 25 percent approval rating when all spending bills originate in Congress with a 14 percent approval rating. The least we can do is to keep Congress, which 75 to 86 percent of us don’t trust, from writing more medical laws and regulations. We must vote these incompetent folks out of office.

Don’t let Congress determine our health care needs. They don’t understand them.

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