Old Town/New Town: Is the Doctor In?

Jerry Schuster  |   Friday May. 1st, 2015

Please don’t make me tell you again. Okay, I will give you a hint, but it is subtle and you will have to guess. It has to do with moving from Wolf Point in northeast Montana (Old Town) to Bozeman (New Town) and all of the changes we’ve noticed in this transaction. There, I kept my word that this introduction would not be brought up again, so don’t get all grouchy on me.

Let’s discuss medical services, a very important topic for us retirees, construction workers, and sport enthusiasts in this community. Thing is, we from small town Montana are used to a more “personal experience” when it comes to our medical needs.

In Old Town, when you are feeling a bit ill or are in need of medical services, you call the Doctor’s Office (that’s singular). Here is an edited excerpt from one of those contacts:

Me to phone receptionist – Hello Jeanie, this is Jerry. I’m feeling a bit under the weather, had this flu bug for about a week. Not getting any better even after drinking three quarts of “Geritol for Boomers,” the medical special at the store last week.

Jeanie – Jerry, I’m sorry, wasn’t that stuff
just awful?

Me – Yes. Amazing we’re still here.

Jeanie – Well, you can come in today at 1:30 p.m.

Me – No, I’ll be enjoying my afternoon nap then, how about 2:36 p.m.?

Jeanie – See you then. Say hello to Theresa and the family for me.

Now, moving on to New Town. I assumed most here were fairly healthy and in no real need of medical services. Wrong. Seems us semi-retired older folks and sport enthusiasts all crowding into the Valley have created quite a commotion in the medical community, not to mention the heavy dose of construction activities with attendant accidents. A lot of young risk-takers end up cracking up on the ski slopes, bike trails, ice and rock climbing, and trying to outrun loose aggressive dogs.

Shortly after arrival here, I thought it would be prudent to get a local doctor. The first four calls were a bust, having waited on each an average of 46 minutes; but the “music” and “ads” were lively. Glad I wasn’t in need of medical services that day, or I would have become deceased while waiting for a response. Basically, the answer was the same – no new Medicare-eligible patients. Tried to explain that we had other very good insurance, also VA qualified, etc. Sorry, for your age of new patients, we’re full up, and you, sir, have nice day.

Call five; another 23.4 minutes of recordings, but this time some news also, although in Spanish, but sure beat the music and ads. Finally, a conversation with a friendly receptionist, and yes, Dr. Imma Lastchance was taking new patients, even Medicare-qualified! I’ll pick up on the slightly edited conversation from there…

Me – Oh, good, I’m so thankful.

Receptionist – Okay, first thing we need you to do is complete our new patient questionnaire/survey, which will be mailed out this week …

Me – Say what? But, I haven’t had any services yet; just been trying to avoid a slow death while on these  medical phone calls…

Receptionist – We’ll send you the survey. It’s a survey about your attitude on taking surveys…

Me – Kind of like a “medical poll tax?”

Fast forward to three months later, I’m at the doctor’s office for a scheduled “annual check-up and oil change.” Oh wait, that might have been for the car. Sorry.

Me to Receptionist – Good morning, I’m here to see Dr. Imma Lastchance…

Receptionist – Have a chair. While you’re waiting, please complete this survey…

Me – Survey? But I just got here…

Receptionist – Here’s your clipboard…now sit.

Next, I had to get my blood tested, so it was off to the “blood draw” section, down two doors, take a left, follow the green line on the carpet until the next corner, then take a right at nephrology and it will be right there on your left. Found it after 3.5 hours, as the clue was the line that stretched from the waiting area back down to the cafeteria. I got in line and had the “lunch special” while waiting to get my “blood draw number.” Also had dinner and the early bird breakfast special the next morning.

Amazingly, I finally get my number, being 2,168. Listened for the number they were currently drawing; it was 13. The time went quickly, however, as I had some “predraw” surveys to complete. Just my luck, the person in front of me was trypanophobic, so that draw took a very very long time.

After the appointment, I stopped by the mailbox to pick up our mail. Surprise, there’s a survey from the doctor’s office concerning the appointment I just completed fifteen minutes earlier…go figure.

Anyway, now all the bills are settled up and we’re all effervescent for a while. To be proactive, I requested a “pre-need survey questionnaire” now so I will have it all ready to turn in at my next appointment. Don’t mention this tip to anyone else, as there will be a run on “pre-need survey questionnaires” and I will be blamed for the shortage and in real trouble.   

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