Lengthy Waits

A few weeks ago after pressing the doctor to give him eye surgery, my husband could finally mark his calendar for a specific date, which is in three months. When we returned to the doctor’s office recently for a pre-operation meeting, we suggested the doctor operate on my husband’s other eye three weeks after his first surgery. But the doctor said, “I’m fully booked the first three months next year.” I was shocked. It was only late September. How many patients did the doctor give eye surgery on? If a cataract surgery was as simple as he said, wouldn’t the queuing for his care go quicker?

Situations like this happen to my other American family members. If they are lucky, they will see the doctor within three weeks. In most cases, it takes longer to get a surgery or an examination with the specified medical equipment, such as MRI and colonoscopy. It seems to me a patient has to wait a minimum of two months. Gosh! Who knows what will happen to a disease-ridden patient after two months? If lucky, the symptoms may have gone away by then.

I remember a couple of times the doctor had to change the appointment with my American family a few days prior to the appointment. His reasons always sounded legitimate because of emergency or unexpected circumstances. It was so easy for him to change the date but it was never easy for the patients. Besides biting lips from the agony, they had to put aside their to-do list on that particular day solely for this appointment. As a Cantonese idiom says, it’s such a long wait that our necks have gotten longer for it (because we need to crane our necks to look around for our turns).

The options for my American family were not good either. If the patient could not reschedule the appointment, he could switch to another doctor recommended by his doctor on the same day. I asked him how long he would have to wait for the rescheduled appointment. Another three weeks, he said.

I don’t understand why a doctor’s appointment takes so long in America. While many Chinese are looking up to America’s high quality life, waiting weeks and months for a doctor’s appointment certainly is not a model for the developing world to follow. Oftentimes, I don’t need a doctor’s appointment to see a doctor in Guangzhou, China. If I am ill, I go to the hospital. I may need to wait for hours there but at the end of the day, I’ll see the doctor.

I’m not sure if long waiting is a chronic problem in the U.S.. But I do notice there are a few walk-in medical clinics near where I live in America, which are often jammed with patients in need of all sorts of basic care, from a cold to a knee injury. Drug stores and supermarkets like Walgreens and Wal-Mart also provide medical assistance. Perhaps Americans are fed up with lengthy waits for basic healthcare.

Filed under: Prose, Songyi Zhang's America