Growing up, my family--my parents, siblings, and I--all went to the same family doctor in town for general check-ups, injuries and ailments. Dr. McArdle could treat it all--he left the golf course one afternoon when I was an infant to give me a shot when I contracted measles. Five years later, I got a shot in the buttocks for a raging case of poison ivy, and it was cleared up within 24 hours. When a metal splinter got stuck in my brother's eye when he was working underneath a car, he came over the house to take it out. I never appreciated any of this until now, but Dr. McArdle was an amazing doctor, and he dispensed medicine with a gentle bedside manner and a dose of kindness. All of the years I can remember going to him, it seems my mother and I were never waiting long in the wait room.
It's such a drastic difference compared to today. I don't want the comments for this post to turn into a raging political debate about insurance and pharmaceutical companies; I'm just trying to point out how difficult and stressful trying to see a doctor can be today compared to the 1970s. Doctors of the present day are seeing way more patients in the course of a day, which means they have less time to really listen to you as a person. The general practitioner will often refer you to a specialist for treatments they used to be able to do themselves. If you're lucky, you have insurance that allows you to see a specialist without their permission; if not, you must wait for their referral. Waiting rooms? Maybe they should be called wasting rooms, since you waste time sitting around for your turn, particularly in walk-in clinics and ERs. My mother waited for 8 hours in one a few months ago with an infected hand from a stray cat's bite, despite the walk-in clinic's reassurance that they had faxed the hospital the proper paperwork that would have gotten her admittance right away.
My mother also asked her present GP today for a pain shot for her bursitis, only to be told it can't be done by them and that she should see a specialist. She lamented that Dr. McArdle would have been able, and happy, to give her a shot with no problem. It's all about giving patients the runaround now. Sadly, the old time family doctor who went out of his way--who was allowed to go out of his way without insurance company red tape--is gone.