Thursday, June 23, 2011

Observations from the County Health Department (and Clinic)

*note* these are my observations, nothing more. Observations from the very little interaction I have had with the local county health department. Those with more experience in this area may find that these observations hold true... or not. They're just my observations.

I had to go to the health department this morning to have some paperwork filled out.

My first observation is demographic in nature. During the time that I was there, here are the family demographics (I would say patient demographics, but I don't want to make assumptions as to which family member was the actual patient):

Of the family-groups as a whole:

89% were white

11% were Latin American

56% were there with families that included small children

44% were there alone

100% appeared to be healthy (no runny noses, sick looks, etc)

Of the families with small children:

60% of the children were infants

20% of the children were toddlers

20% of the children were school-aged, but younger than pre-teen

50% had both parents there

50% were mothers with small children (father not present)

Of the people there alone:100% were women

50% appeared to be in their late teens / early 20s

25% appeared to be in their mid-30s

25% were senior citizens

Some notes about the office:

As someone who spent four years working in medical offices, I would like to say that it was run as a model of... inefficiency.

Whether this is due to budget cuts / staffing shortages, inefficient procedure practices, ineffective employees, staff being bound by governmental red tape, systems issues... well, I don't have nearly enough experience to tell you why. I can only tell you that it appeared to be incredibly inefficient, and I was not nearly the most frustrated person there.

First, there was my experience when I scheduled my appointment. I was told to call the day before to "make sure the staff will be there" for my appointment, and that there was still a chance I could show up and the staff I needed to see wasn't there. This is ludicrous. Do I really need to explain why?

Secondly, I had to see four different people to get one form filled out. It went something like this:
        See person #1 - go sit in lobby
        See person #2 - go sit in lobby
        See person #3 - go sit in lobby
        See person #4 - free to leave
And person #4 gave me the impression that normal procedures would have had me seeing yet another person, but she decided to "go ahead & take care of it" for me, so I could leave.

And it's not just me. Just in the time I was there, 56% of patients were called up to a cubicle (hey, it's a clinic remember) or back in a room only to come back out to the lobby to sit and wait to be called again later.

Then there was the timing issue. I had an 8am appointment. According to the person who scheduled me, and the sign on the door, the first appointment of the day.

I got there at 7:50am
Saw person #1 at 8:05 am
       person #2 at 8:15am
       person #3 at 8:25am
       person #4 at 8:35am

Fairly even increments, but my point is: should it really take 30 minutes for someone to get one form filled out? I did not need an exam. Just a form. Four lines, to be exact. Thirty minutes? Not just for the patient's sake, but for the staff as well? for the rest of the patients? for efficiency's sake?

Each person did their job fairly quickly. It was the wait in-between. What is that about? Why four people at all? And apparently, normally five people? Do we really need a five-person procedure to fill out four lines for one patient?

Do you know, when I called to make my appointment, she flat-out told me that I really wanted an 8am appointment, because if I come at any time other than first appointment of the day, I can expect to be there for a couple of hours, "at least". She actually said that.

That's a problem.

Again, I don't know the "why" behind this. Maybe they are bound by governmental policy / procedure. Maybe they are short-staffed. Maybe... whatever.

All I know, is this is a problem

I heard the frustrations of parents who were asked to fill out the same forms that they "just did two days ago", saw the tiredness on everyone's faces as on mother muttered "I hate this place".

But... beneath it all... there was also quiet. Smiles. Friendliness. And somehow, I couldn't help but feel a sense of gratitude coming from the patients there.

Despite the problems, the imperfections, the inefficiencies... the fact is that we live in a place where in the God forbid that something happens to us, we can get health care for our children. And I was simultaneously so very thankful that we didn't need to use a place like the clinic, and very grateful that such a place existed.

Because you really never know when that might be you.

And it renewed afresh the feeling in my heart that God is leading me to serve in a very specific way. I've been feeling this tug for a while now. A long while really. Looked into it months ago, but kept running into dead ends. Perhaps just signs the timing was wrong? I suppose we shall see. FireMan & I have already talked about it. We need now just to take the steps to start the process.

Nope. Not sharing any more. Yet.

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