Waiting in line at the pharmacy

day-4-closeup

Today I had a follow-up appointment with the surgeon to check on progress as I heal. Edmund kindly accompanied me, though it’s tedious for him. It was slow-going because the entire computer system was affected with unusual lag, and every appointment was running late.

The doctor blessed my progress, warning me that healing would continue to be slower than normal as long as I was on some of my post-cancer medications. She also gave me a prescription that had to be compounded at the hospital pharmacy, and the necessary paperwork to extend my disability leave.

I decided to take care of the paperwork first, hoping this would give plenty of time for the pharmacists to prepare my prescription. When we got to the Release of Medical Information Counter, there were a LOT of people waiting; the number being served was 11, and I was assigned No. 25. We sat down to wait but a quarter of an hour, we were still on No. 11. Edmund suggested that he stay to provide my paperwork, and I go check in at the pharmacy to make sure the order was in.

So I got to the pharmacy, checked in, and was told it would take about 45 minutes. Edmund and I started a turtle race for who would get done first, and I decided to keep him entertained with tales of my adventures.

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If you’re wondering, it took me a total of just over 90 minutes from the moment I checked in at the pharmacy to walk out of there. Edmund finished first with 15 minutes to spare, but since he’d already waited waited at least that long before I got the the pharmacy, it’s probably a draw. That said, the personnel was very nice and diligent, they checked on me a few times, it’s not their fault the place was packed and the computers were sluggish. Yes, we could have decided to come back later, but I didn’t want to restart the clock…

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3 thoughts on “Waiting in line at the pharmacy

  1. There was a time when I was at the NorthGate GroupHealth pharmacy, trying to get meds for L. They had been mailing them to us, but the regular shipment didn’t come on time, even though the website said it had been sent, and a call to clear up the matter didn’t help because the call center was downtown, and the pharmacy in question wasn’t, and so they helpfully suggested that we go to the pharmacy and ask.

    Bear in mind that L. is bipolar, and _cannot_ go long without medication without having some serious complications. As in, the doctor telling us that if she ever has another psychotic break again, she may not come back from it. So, the meds are pretty important. Going without could mean putting her in a permanent state that requires institutionalization. So, I tend to get anxious when her meds get screwed up.

    I went down there and there was some kind of problem in their database caused by an upgrade, and we weren’t the only ones affected. It took hours to get to the window, and then it was decided, that since the meds in question had no history in the database (having been wiped out), and I couldn’t prove that there was a history, and they are “schedule a” narcotics – a controlled substance with a high street value, that it would require a signature from her doctor. They pleasantly told me to go away, get a new prescription, and come back.

    I said, “no.” It had been screwed up in the past, and they had contacted doctor directly, and gotten what they needed by fax, so I told them to do this. I also explained that, at this time, we were on day two of no meds, and that this was getting serious, and they were critical for her health. Getting another appointment with her doctor would take days, or maybe even weeks, for an opening. Or perhaps he’d see us in an emergency right away, but then I’d have to come back and wait for hours and hours. The solution was at hand and I was having none of their desire to reduce their workload.

    She did explain that there were lots of people waiting and it wasn’t fair for me to stand there and demand that they give me all this attention. I asked her how many people in that waiting room were waiting for medications that were critical for their lives or health… and she said she didn’t know.

    I then asked why she didn’t know? Why didn’t they triage? What if someone out there is truly suffering and needs medication immediately, but has to wait for a whole bunch of people whose needs aren’t critical first? I told her I was triaging L.’s needs and decided that, unless someone else in the room is dying, that L.’s needs were more important, and I refused to move until they called the doctor and fixed the issue.

    Luckily for me, they didn’t just call a security guard and boot me out the door. But I got ‘er done. They called the doctor eventually. They made it hard, of course. I had to dig up the doctor’s phone number because she couldn’t seem to find it, even though the doctor is a GroupHealth employee. Then, as I stood there, I could see the fax machine, and I’m the one who called it to her attention when it came through, as she was busy fussing over her computer, probably figuring out how to note the file with the fact that I’m an asshole.

    We have since switched pharmacies. Now, Bartell’s handles everything, and they’re really good.

    1. AAAHHH! What a terrifying ordeal! Belated thanks for handling it firmly and protecting L’s health. That’s way, way worse than anything I have encountered this past year. My case was merely tedious, not urgent. Kaiser Permanente do offer priority check-in to urgent cases, and employees regularly check on anyone who has been waiting for a while. There are chairs to wait for the call that your prescription is ready.

      What you went through is unforgivable. It illustrates how f’ed up the American health care system is, and how much patients’ interests are lost in the morass. (KP is the closest thing I have seen in the US to the single-payer experience.)

      1. I will say this in GroupHealth’s defense: Their actual health care is pretty good. They took care of L when she had two pulmonary embolisms, a life-threatening issue, and handled it very well. Their doctors are top notch.

        Their pharmacy just sucks. Sucks sucks sucks sucks.

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