What’s Good and Bad about the Military’s Medical System

Bob’s tonsillectomy went off without a hitch.  His pain level has steadily decreased since two days post op and it is barely noticeable now.  We celebrated, with more ice cream, when his pain level reached a lower level than what it had been prior to surgery.  Also, the pathology came back ‘all clear.’

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Medevacing was the right choice.  Thanks to Tricare, the military’s medical insurance system, we were able to, relatively seamlessly, get to a US Naval Hospital, see a provider and make a huge difference in an 11 year old’s life. (We celebrated his birthday on Monday.)

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While we’ve been here, for what will end up being 19 days, I managed to see to some of my own medical needs.  I was months behind on getting my yearly mammogram because I was so consumed with Bob’s health. (I know, that’s no excuse.)  So, I walked into the family practice clinic, explained our medevac, short term  on location situation, had a well check and scheduled the test.  The technician and radiologist were thorough and extremely attentive, knowing the difference in care back in Taiwan.  I could not be more grateful for their kindness and attentiveness to detail.  Since I was seen at a Military Treatment Facility (MTF), the process was seamless and easy.

Less easy, was getting care for my months old foot injury.  I hurt my foot on a run in November, but knowing how difficult the care process is where we live, I sucked it up and when it didn’t get better after a few weeks of rest, I just went back to running and took a lot of NSAIDs.  It occurred to me that it would be simple to get it looked at here, at an MTF, where there is a Radiology department, Podiatry department, and Orthopedics department… all on one floor of the hospital.

No such luck.

I walked into the ortho/podiatry clinic, explained my unique situation, and asked for an appointment.  The kind ladies at the desk expressed their apologies but said that I needed a referral, and there were no appointments available, so I should just go to the ER.

The ER?  For a months old injury?  That seems like a terrible waste of resources.  They agreed, but shrugged their shoulders.

I had nothing but time on my hands as Bob recovered, happily sucking up the free hospital wifi, so I watched for a quiet time at the ER and then explained my situation to the young man at the desk, who agreed with me that this was a backwards way to run things, but said it happens all the time.  I know it does because I see the kids with ear infections and strep throat waiting in the ER chairs every day lately.

Alas, a kind doctor took a look at my foot, scheduled some xrays and put in a referral to the podiatry clinic.  That wasn’t so bad…

Except…

When I went into the Podiatry clinic to make my appointment, the kind ladies put on their apology faces again as they explained that there are no appointments for new patients until May 5th.  But I’m flying off island on May 1st, I explained.  We are medevaced here.  My son had surgery…

They understood, tried to change the referral from new patient to something else.  They even talked to the doctor.

Nothing.

I went back to the ER to ask for suggestions.  The young man at the desk suggested I see Referral Management.  The great lady there told me she would do what she could.  Today she sought me out, found me, and told me she got an appointment for me on May 5, which won’t work.

I checked for cancellations at the Podiatry clinic EVERY DAY… twice, for nearly two weeks.  Nothing.  When I asked today, our second to last day here, what I should do, they said to go back to the ER.

Really?  There has to be a better way.  Doesn’t there?  This is being debated and worked on by people, who, unlike me, are not wearing yoga pants and running shoes, they dress up and go to work specifically to deal with such conundrums.  The National Military Family Association is working on it, but what is the solution?

I realize that my situation is unique, but I’ve seen so many cases of people who have an enormous amount of trouble navigating the appointment and referral system.  Overall, the military medical system has been very good to us, but it is broken, to be sure.  Providers and technicians will testify to it.  It has only gotten worse since Sequestration took effect.

The ER doc diagnosed what I had been afraid of…  I’m getting older.  I have a healing stress fracture and a… wait for it… bunion!  NOOOOOOOO.

Solution, find exercise that puts less stress on my foot.

I just started training for a 10K.  Can’t stop… Won’t stop…

Popping more Motrin.

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About Commander in Chief At home

Erin is a military spouse and, sometimes temporarily single mom to 4 boys. She's a parenting coach, writer, teacher, special needs (Autism) mom, and much more.
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