Tuesday, May 18, 2004

That's It, I'm Getting A Midwife!

The straw that broke the camel's back landed yesterday when I went to my doctor appointment, only to be verbally abused by a receptionist. I have had it with this medical system. I am getting a midwife and having this baby at home.

For anyone other than my sister and my brother-in-law who happens to be reading this blog and is wondering what I'm talking about, here's the backstory:

I love my OB-GYN, I really do. He's a great ex-military salty-dog type who did an exceptional job on my episiotomy and all. At my last birth he wasn't able to do much but get his gloves on in time to keep Sonshine from hitting the floor, and stitch me up afterward. But like all OB practices in our town, his is expanding past the point of practicality. There are now half a dozen people seeing patients at his practice where there used to be only him, the physician's assistant, and the nurse-midwife. It is just impossible to get in to see him unless you make appointments months in advance, which I can't do because I have kids with schedules that don't get announced until the week of the event. So I found a new OB who had just taken over a waning practice, and I started going to see him. All was well until December, when he announced that he was packing it in and moving to Oklahoma, leaving me to find a new caregiver at 20 weeks of pregnancy.

I was able to get in at my old OB's office, but I was not welcomed back with open arms. Ever since then I've been treated like an interloper. The staff there just sees me as an additional burden on them, not a patient who deserves respect.

Add to that our local hospital, which has a bureaucracy that makes China's old imperial bureaucracy look like a Girl Scout field trip. They set up a separate billing account for every single charge, then flood your mailbox with a plethora of bills for different amounts and services, and are somehow incapable of looking up or combining all your accounts into one. If you have to make payments, they require you to pay a tiny amount on each account, so that you are writing them a flurry of tiny checks every month. And when you call them with difficulties about it, they just laugh at you for being such an idiot that you can't keep track of your medical bills.

That's the backstory.

So yesterday I went to the OB appointment. I stood at the receptionist's desk for five minutes, waiting to check in for my appointment. When you are 33 weeks pregnant and suffering from sciatic nerve problems, standing for five minutes is an ordeal. I'd arrived early even though I know late afternoon appointments are usually running behind schedule. I waited there until the actual time of my appointment came around, before someone finally arrived to check me in. There was no bell to ring for service, and no one poked their head out and said "be right with you" during that entire time. Another doctor's office was using the other half of the counter, and no one at that half of the counter ever once turned to look at me or offered to get the attention of whoever was supposed to be checking in patients.

When someone finally did come, I explained that I'd been standing there for five minutes, and she launches into this tirade about how they are all very busy back there and I'll just have to deal with it, and if I don't like it I can just go find another doctor, and if I can find another doctor it'll be exactly the same there, and just on and on. There was a poster behind her head outlining the standard of care for patients and the positive attributes that the staff is supposed to have. I had a severe urge to run back to my car, get a marker, leap over the counter, and scribble out all those positive adjectives that would not be accurate descriptions of this horrid little twit. I didn't do it though, mostly because I didn't think I could leap the counter in my condition, and partly because having to fetch the marker would take all the spontaneity out of it.

Then I launched into the paperwork. She gave me some papers to fill out, and I made a payment on my account. She clearly indicated by the tone of her voice that she thought I was trying to make work for her by not paying my entire account at once. Considering that I've only been seen there twice, I thought the amount of the account was excessive, but I'll settle that later.

I decided that if I was going to have to pay for the visit anyway, I might as well stay and get my money's worth, so I had my prenatal exam and left.

When I got home, there was yet another bill from the hospital bureaucracy, this one for something I'd already paid twice, but I think the first check must have gotten lost in the mail because it never did clear my account. This bureaucracy is so dumb it doesn't even know when it's been paid. And they blame ME for not being able to keep track of it all.

In that same stack of mail was also the telephone bill, which for some reason has been having hissy fits lately. Our DSL charge was way too high, so I called them up. You know what they did? The first thing they did was apologize for their mistake. Then they credited my bill for the erroneous amount. Now THAT'S what customer service is supposed to be like.

I really don't have to pay for the privilege of putting up with this crap. I know a lay midwife; I'm trying to track her down through her son who works with me at the university, because the number I have for her has been disconnected. She shouldn't be too hard to find, and if not, I have a list of doulas in the area who can probably hook me up with a midwife. I'm so fed up with dealing with a system that doesn't make any effort to work with people because it thinks it's the only game in town. Well, it's not the only game in town, and I don't have to play.