Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Dr Welby...Where Are Y-o-u-u-u (Losing My Dear Doctor :( - Revised


I don't know what to call this post. Sad? Devastated? Mad at the System? Feeling VULNERABLE? Feeling ORPHANED and OUT THERE?

It was the weirdest thing.

As I sifted through my mail today,recognizing an envelope from my dear PCP, I had a feeling it was a letter stating he was closing his practice. Sadly, I was right.

I began crying before I even got past the first paragraph.

I feel for him too ...what a difficult time he must've been having ..to have come to this point. I consider him to be in his prime. I don't know what age is considered to be a physician's prime ..but to me he has years of experience, but would seem to have many more ...at least 10 or 15.... I am guessing ...and quite possibly longer, depending on how long he chose to continue in his practice.

His practice ...something I imagine was his dream come true at one time ...one in which he poured his heart and soul into. Thousands of hours ...taking care of so many patients. Some come and go and some ...probably with him longer than me.

I imagine many of them are devastated just as I am. I imagine the phone is ringing off the hook with people calling today ..just as I did. I composed myself before calling, but then as soon as I heard the dear receptionist's voice (such a sweet and helpful woman ..always with a smile and compassionate listener), I cried again and cried throughout and she said other patients were too and that they are all so sad. I said I know all of you must feel so sad too. She said they were. My doc said it in his letter.

I think I started with him in the early 90s ...maybe 1990. I will ask him when I go in Thursday.

I can't wait to see him. I should've gone in in the fall ...but put it off. I also called my insurance company to see if I could get a yearly physical earlier than this coming May (when I had the last one in which pcpDoc kept stating my results were PHENOMENAL! :), so at least I will have time to find another doctor. :( And of course ...if he even has time to do that with his patients now.

I told her I want my records. I do not want to take a chance on them getting lost like the other physicians office did a 2 years ago and so I will be right there to make sure I get them directly. I didn't say that of course. But ..she said they are telling people to hold off a couple of weeks because someone may be taking over.

And they moved into this really nice office a few years ago, with a beautifully large window in the waiting room. It seems like the perfect set up for them ..so much more spacious. Oh well.

This wasn't a total surprise and so I wasn't experiencing some kind of clairvoyance when spotting the envelope. There would be no other reason to send me anything from their office.

I can say this now as I am sure this is all public knowledge by now and still I will not name him. But, last fall ...he sent out a letter in which he stated that he was joining HEALSA and moving going to a concierge service ...although he would also still see his regular patients that didn't join the program. For a monthly fee, a patient could have unlimited access to him as their physician, would get priority and I forget all the perks. I didn't sign up because I could not afford the monthly fee and ..really ..I do not have to see him often at all. Aside from uro and check ups, I don't even remember the last time I needed to see a doctor for antibiotics, etc. Oh wait, December 2007 for an upper respiratory infection. My point being, that thankfully ...except for uro and routine checkups ..I don't have to see a doctor for illness much at all.

Here is an excerpt from today's letter: "Over the past few years it has become increasingly difficult to remain in practice. The growing burdens of administration as well as the diminishing insurance reimbursements has reached the point that solo practice has become unworkable. Many of my primary care colleagues are suffering the same problems as it appears that the solo private practice in family medicine, to which we have been ordinarily accustomed, is on the verge of significant change."

Dr Rob from Musings of a Distractible Mind blog and other physicians have been discussing this very issue for a couple of years now ..at least. It always scared me. I did not even want to contemplate losing my excellent family doc. I really didn't think it would happen because ...well ..you know ...you always think it will be the someone else. I can't imagine who could possibly fill his shoes. A twenty year relationship doesn't happen over night ..it happens over twenty y-e-a-r-s.

I told Mr SeaSpray when he walked in the door and his face fell because he really liked him too. Then I feel into his arms and cried. Is that an overreaction? I don't know. I feel that sad about it. I feel like I am losing someone very special in my life. And he sees our younger son. he's a family Doc.

The idea of starting over ... who? ...where? ...when? Will we connect? Will they be as good? Will they like us as patients? Records and prescriptions? I guess I'll know for sure in a couple of weeks if someone does take over? If?

And no matter what ...I am really going to miss this doctor! A lady I was speaking with on the phone at the electric company told me her doctor of 15 years retired and no doctor has ever been the same. She said they are all business and no warmth. I'm one of those ..have to feel it people. I just am.

He always picks up the phone to talk with me. he has this delightful sense of humor and he's compassionate. I know he trusts me. I trust him ...so much! I know when I tell him things, he knows he can trust my assessment or whatever I am discussing. I can't tell you how many times he has gone the extra mile for me ..giving me extra time ..just doing nice things and he got me ...always understanding. I never expected it ...except now I always think he will be that way because that is how he is. And I loved that I could discuss anything and he was immediately up to speed because he knows me and my health history, etc. And we would have other discussions ..other than health sometimes. And he prayed with me if I wanted it. I love that he understands where I am coming from with a faith perspective. Oh my gosh ...I could say so many good things about this excellent doctor!

I wish him every success in his new position as a salaried corporate physician. Even though this must've been so difficult for him, I can imagine a weight has been lifted off his shoulders ..especially once he moves on. And we patients will too. It is what it is.

I will save the rest of my energy about this for one heck of a thank you note.

I know it may seem weird that I am this upset. I can't help it. I feel so vulnerable and out there now.

And I am concerned about what he means by things changing in family medicine. I know this was happening before the Obama care and I wonder what that all means for other medical practices too? I've always heard we had the best health care and took it for granted. I can hardly believe that patients and our physicians even have to be concerned about this stuff.

Dr W-E-L-B-Y--Y-Y ...where are y-o-u-u-u? Or ..I should say ...the DAYS of Dr Welby ...where are y-o-u-u-u?

And again ...I know I may be overreacting somewhat. What can I say? Goodbyes have never been my strong suit.

Although...I just asked Mr SeaSpray how he felt about DrPCP closing his practice and he answered, "Not Good. Where an *I* gonna go now? I'm NOT going to go to x,y and z!"

I agreed.

Then I said that he'll go where ever I go. It will work out.

He asked about his medicine. I said they will probably five enough refills to carry over to finding another physician. I don't know, but it makes sense.

Mr SeaSpray has only seen him a few times and bonded well with him ...which let me tell you ..says a lot because Mr SeaSpray has an extreme aversion to anything ..anyone medical. It's in his DNA. Seriously. He has an aunt who couldn't walk into a hospital without getting nauseated.

If he is feeling the loss and uncertainty ...how much more is it hurting us long time patients?

You docs matter to your patients ..believe me.


Dr Synonymous said...

Sea Spray,
Sorry to hear about your loss. It is an avalanche that is spreading-family doctors leaving practice. I appreciate your comments and will feature your blog on my BTR show tonite, with a couple other patient blogs. Your comments are very representative of what thousands of patients are experiencing as we head for the next era. I hope you find another good family doctor.

rnraquel said...

I'm so sorry! I can totally empathize. My wonderful doctor gave up his solo practice in 2009 to become a hospitalist. It is so frustrating and sad :(

SeaSpray said...

Thank you Dr Synonymous.

I wish there was a way to reverse the avalanche.

Thank you for featuring my blog on your show tonight. I didn't see this until later ..after 9 and then I quickly got onto blogtalk radio. I was listening and then lost it somehow. Anyway ..I may be listening to a recording now (22:14), but if it was live and you take calls ..I'd call in. :)

I do hope we find one too. Giving it to God. Still sad tho.

SeaSpray said...

Thank you rnraquel. I'm sorry you lost your doc too. It is sad and frustrating. Can't blame them for moving on.

But gosh ..it must be so devastating for them. maybe a relief at some point.

I wish this stuff would stop with our health care system.

StorytellERdoc said...

Hi Pat

I, too, am sorry for your disappointment and sadness in losing your "buddy," so to speak. I am in my mid 40s and over the past few years, have seriously entertained other avenues, outside of patient care, to pursue and use my medical degree. The politics and legal sides of this job are disheartening...I just want to treat patients!

Oh well, I hope you are well and feeling a little better about things. There are some GREAT docs just waiting to sign you up, so don't give up hope.


WarmSocks said...

I'm so sorry. It would be heartbreaking to lose a family doctor after all that time.

We found our family physician by praying. Really. I prayed, then looked through the yellow pages and picked a name. Much better than our previous attempts at choosing a doctor the "logical" way. Food for thought, as you search for a new doctor.

Chrysalis Angel said...

Hi Seaspray. I feel for you. I know my own doc has begun to practice as a hospitalist, and I know it's only a matter of time before he leaves the practice all together.

I'm under no illusions I will ever find someone like that again. It's very sad. You said it well, Seaspray.

SeaSpray said...

Thank you for your kind words Jim.

I am sorry that it has sometimes been disheartening for you and for other docs. because after all ...your just want to treat the patients and that is what we patients want, but all the paperwork, regulations and fear of lawsuits get in the way. It's discouraging.

I hope we don't keep losing doctors. I wish you could all unite and have your collective voice heard. It has to stop. It just is not right. Everything is about the dollar and defensive medicine.

It shouldn't be so complicated.

I am feeling a little better since over the initial reaction to the letter. But still sad and unsettled/vulnerable feeling about it. And I dread starting over. But ..if there is a GREAT doc out there for us ..then I will be grateful. Still ..this doc was one of a kind.

I hope all is well with you too.

SeaSpray said...

Hi Warm Socks - I like that. praying is the best way for sure because God knows who best to be paired up with for both doctor and patient. I didn't think of that initially. I just reacted.

heartbreaking - so true. I had to cancel my appt today because a bit under the weather. I apologized to receptionist for crying on the phone the other day and she said it has been gut wrenching around there and some patients get her crying. :(

Thank you for sharing your experience warm Socks.

SeaSpray said...

Hey my sweet friend ..Angel - we have been mia too long.

Maybe your doc will stick around and is just bringing in extra income.

It just seems so wrong that they spent so much time, money and all the hours put into it and sacrifice ..that it should become unaffordable to continue practicing.

Why is this happening? I know ins reimbursements part of it. I do wonder what my doc meant by "solo practice in family medicine, to which we have been ordinarily accustomed, is on the verge of significant change."?

Chrysalis Angel said...

It's going right down the tubes, Seaspray. The days of the "Gate Keeper" being able to keep up, are numbered. Unless we can all find a way to step in and revamp the entire system, and I don't see that happening in our lifetime. It's about to get worse, not better from the look of things.

They are trying to put in a new medical center here, and yet they are looking for Primary Care Physicians to take on the large volume of patients that the area has. There are just not enough of them any longer.

No, I know what my person is doing. We've worked for the same place and I fully understand what he's been going through. I would do the same thing if I were in his shoes. I just don't want to start over either.

SeaSpray said...

Gee Angel ...to say it's discouraging is an understatement. I hope you get to keep your doc for awhile though. I will be going to see my doc Monday. Didn't go last week. I am wanting and not wanting to go in. It will be hard knowing it is the last time I see him. But being around him is like a ray of sunshine every time. I just can't believe I'll never get to speak with him again.

And I feel totally out there with who will take over ..will we like them ..will they be as good?

Life seems so hard for so many people right now.

As far as revamping the system ..I wonder if our politicians even speak the same language. It's like no one communicates anymore. And we no they didn't even read the health care bill. Okay ..not going there.

But I do wonder if this bill is further impacting private primary care physicians and the specialists?

Chrysalis Angel said...

Sea, check your email.

Dr. Deb said...

Oh, I find it so sad too if my gp closed her practice. I hate change and I hate goodbyes! I hope you can find another one you like just as much