Back in 1992 I adopted a new young Doctor who had started a practice in the local area. We were one of the first patients and my boys are still under her care. A couple of other Doctors also held surgery there and I enjoyed having “my” doctor and when I wished, one of the other doctors. About a year ago it all split up and my GP went into flash, and no doubt expensive rooms, with other Doctors, two of whom they describe as “walk-in doctors” ie you can walk in without an appointment and see the doc, when you want, 12 hours a day.
The other doctor I had got to know went off to a rather dreary looking surgery and I missed the opportunity to see him. Nowadays, you need to “sign up” to one surgery or the visits cost quite a lot of money. How it works is that the surgery receives a set amount of funding for you and so it’s in their interests to ensure that you are well and don’t actually have to see the doctor (assuming I guess that the $40 or so you do pay is not an incentive). It also means that from a customer relations perspective, there is no incentive to look after the signed up patients.
Which is what I discovered this afternoon. Phoning earlier I lamented, yet again, no-one there knows me, that everytime I phone I need to explain who I am etc etc. What?! Have I phoned the District Health Board? Feels like it as a series of recorded messages describe how I can leave a message to get a script completed. Optimistically, I attended at the rooms several hours later to collect my script to be told, in the third person, that “he left a message two hours ago and it takes 24 hours to have a script completed”. “Who is he?” I enquired, to discover the person who had hurriedly come from the bowels of the place, was in fact talking about me. I discovered that the script had been completed but not signed. “So can I wait for the doctor to sign the script?”. ”Oh no, you can’t, it takes 24 hours”. ”So this is a medical practice without a doctor”. “No, but we only have walk-in doctors and they can’t sign”.
I found my part-time Doctor in the dreary looking rooms not far away and paid him a visit. I walked in, and he saw me straight away – couple of things I’d been saving up, got some forms for blood tests, he did my BP, got a flu jab, the prescription and yeah, it cost me $69 cos I’m not “signed up” yet.
I went back to the flash doctor’s rooms because they’ve got a pharmacy in the building. One of the walk-in doctors walked in and gave me a friendly wave. I waved back, but I might as well have been waving farewell. I guess all those uniforms, lease, imagery cost a lot of money. But you can’t buy loyalty with that stuff. Or it seems, a doctor who can sign.