The efforts are there, but they seem to be bearing little fruit, and who pays for it is the local consumer of medical goods and services. But not in the way one might think.
Health care from the local physicians is good, what is terrible is the ratio of doctors to patients, and some unintended byproducts of that, including the double, triple and quadruple booking that occurs in some local offices and, let’s be honest, the feeling that local patients don’t have many options, so they must sit down, wait, wait some more, and not complain.
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Some say the ratio of Imperial County patients to doctors is as high as 7,000 to 1. We’re not sure about that, but we do know that last year, in a statewide study, there were 2,400 Imperial County patients for every primary care physician. Nearby San Diego County is around 325 patients for every doctor.
If doctors won’t come here and if those in charge of recruiting efforts are having problems attracting them, we can understand that. Quality-of-life issues are immense for doctors and their spouses, and if they can go to communities where there are more patients paying with private health insurance rather than Medi-Cal or Medicare — two-thirds of county residents have this system of subsidized health insurance — that’s going to be difficult to overcome.
But the doctors that are here can make the experience less painful for local residents while we all wait to see the numbers of physicians rise. That starts with customer service at the front office and for office staffs and doctors to be a little more cognizant that two-hour waits are difficult, but that four-hour waits are downright offensive.
Sometimes the wait can be worth it, but not when the front office is treating patients like insurance billing numbers or, worse, yet, cattle herded through the lobby. Some doctors would be well advised to take note of this. There are many in this Valley who cannot afford alternatives, but those who can, often do. Being the only game in town is one thing, and acting like it is something else.
Dearth of physicians a well-documented problem.
The treatment of patients, though, is an additional outcome of an already bad situation.
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