As of yesterday, I have a new primary care physician. And I feel good about it. Not only does he seem competent and have a friendly manner about him, but I will no longer have to deal with the drama that my old doctor's staff seems to thrive upon.
For almost twenty years I had been a patient at Concord Family Medicine, mostly under the care of Dr. Sam Borrelli, but occasionally being seen by the other practitioners there as well. I really liked them all. But in recent years, things began to happen that made me question what was going on "behind the scenes," as it were.
The first sign of trouble was an incident with Heidi's sister, Cindy, about a year ago. She had also been a long-time patient of Borrelli (in fact, she may have originally recommended him to us). Not having insurance, she went to a free clinic for a routine GYN exam and decided to become a regular patient there strictly
for that purpose. So the clinic, naturally, contacted her primary care physician to obtain copies of the relevant information from her medical records.
A few months later, Cindy contacted Concord Family Medicine to schedule an appointment with Borrelli... and she was completely shell-shocked when they told her that she was "no longer a patient there." When she pried for further details, the office manager informed her that they had transferred all of her records to another doctor, so "obviously" she had found another primary care physician, or else she was "doctor-hopping." Her attempts to explain that she ONLY sought GYN treatment fell upon deaf ears. They basically accused her of lying, refused to let her talk to the doctor or anyone else, and made it very clear that her years of being a loyal patient meant nothing. She was persona-non-grata
, though she'd done nothing wrong.
You'd think it was a simple misunderstanding and would be easily resolved. The next time I met with Borrelli, I explained what had happened, and he agreed that Cindy should still be his patient. I stood there while he told a member of his staff to make sure that Cindy was reinstated as a patient, and I left feeling confident that the matter was resolved. But then Cindy called the office a week or so later, only to learn that nothing had changed. Apparently Borrelli's staff routinely ignores his instructions... OR... the office manager holds the power, either delegated or reserved, to overrule him.
To this day, I'm not sure which is true. But one thing is certain: The office manager at Concord Family Medicine has a God complex, and is on a personal crusade to weed out of her patient pool all of the people whom she personally feels are undeserving of treatment.
Over the past two years, I have covered myself and our kids under my employer's insurance, while Heidi has covered herself under hers. Heidi's coverage is cheap, but isn't very good (i.e., high deductible, then just 80/20 or worse, etc.). Over time, the added expenses began to build up a small balance on Heidi's account. Not a lot, mind you--less than a few hundred dollars--but initially we were unsure as to exactly how much we were responsible for, and then it took us a month or so to work the payments into our budget. But at no time were we unwilling to pay or to cooperate on a schedule.
Suddenly, one day we received a letter. The letter declared, without justification, that the account was delinquent; and without any suggestion of compromise announced that Heidi had been dropped as a patient. Well, I should clarify... They didn't mention Heidi by name. But logically, it was her balance (though no fault of her own), so she would be the patient who was dropped. Right? We were upset about this. It was stupid. But the fact was, we had planned to pay off the balance by the end of the month (which, incidentally, we did). So perhaps Heidi would be able to mend fences with them once everything was squared away.
About a month later, I attempted to refill one of my cholesterol meds only to discover that the refills had expired. Granted, it was foolish of me not to have kept on top of the situation. As I've explained before on this journal
, I suffer from severe hypertriglyceridemia--a condition that can have very serious medical consequences without regular treatment. In fact, the one time in 2006 when I went off my meds, I ended up in the hospital with acute pancreatitis and had to be fed intravenously for two weeks. So naturally, it was vitally important to get a new scrip as quickly as possible.
The drugstore contacted the doctor's office but couldn't obtain authorization for the refill, so I contacted the office directly. At first they seemed willing to give me a month of meds provided that I came in for updated lab work, but the receptionist was unable to find my medical file, so she had to call me back. When she did, I was horrified to discover that my file was closed. They had dropped me
as a patient even though my own account was in perfect standing. When I found my voice, I asked them if they would be kind enough to authorize a month of medication while I looked for a new doctor. After the receptionist discussed the matter with the aforementioned office manager from Hell, she called me back to inform me that she had refused. Just like that. My health be damned; my longtime loyalty notwithstanding... They were done with me, and if I ended up hospitalized as a result, well, that was my own f**king problem.
So many emotions were swirling though my mind... betrayal, anger, fear for my health, and confusion regarding how to proceed. I took the rest of the day off work and began to drive around town, quite literally looking for any
doctor that would take me on as a new patient. I eventually found myself at the Elkhart Clinic
--a huge facility with a large staff, and thankfully they had a doctor of internal medicine, Dr. Pavan Ahuja
, who was willing to see me the following day. He was young but seemed very thorough and helpful, and wrote me new scrips without hassle, even throwing in some free coupons.
Now that it's all overwith, I'm sure this is all for the best. I have no desire to return to a facility where the staff displays a callous and completely unprofessional disregard for my well-being. I still respect Dr. Borrelli as a physician and I am thankful for the fine treatment he gave me through the years, but if he cannot control the unethical behavior of his own staff, I cannot recommend that anyone else take such a gamble with their healthcare.