An Example of What’s Wrong with Modern Medicine

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Author: 
Karnamrita Das

County clinic photo Rockingham County Medical Clinic_zpshocxph5i.jpg
When we are sick and not getting better we may imagine going to some kind of medical professional who is knowledgeable, compassionate, and knows something about our medical history—even about us personally. Today this seems more of a fantasy we cling to, or hope to encounter if we have a lot of money to spend for the best care available.

Some months ago I visited a clinic in the next county, as this was recently given to me by my new medical insurance. During and after this experience, I had firsthand experience of is wrong with the American medical system. Let me recount:

Walking through the door to the desk, a sign informs me that I need to sign in. After doing so, I look up at the busy workers behind the counter, hoping someone will notice me. The minutes tic off and I wonder if I am invisible. Closest to me are two ladies busily engaged, one on the phone, and another on the computer. Behind them are 3 other women busy with conversation, and behind them are 2 other ladies with their back toward me, busy with data entry. No one notices me. After about 8 minutes I am checked in and told to take my seat and wait for my name to be called.

In the building directory two doctors and nine nurses are listed with various titles. In the front office I counted nine office staff and there must be more inside. I wonder what the payroll is for all these employees.
Waiting room blues photo Bored patience_zpssxt3qjpo.jpg
The waiting area is a large open room with cathedral ceilings decorated with fashionable lighting. Natural light floods in from many windows, giving a cheery appearance. Amidst the comfortable overstuffed chairs and couches sit many older ladies and young mothers with children. A large man who I imagine must weigh between 350 to 400 pounds takes up a whole coach as if it was tailored made for him. A T.V. is on with a talk show playing, as is often the case in waiting rooms. Fortunately the volume is low enough to be only background sound rather than demanding everyone’s attention. Most people ignore it and stare into space, read, or converse with another, though the show captures the focus of a few mesmerized viewers. New people enter and seen patients exit. I wonder how a very top heavy organization with expensive facilities actually promotes health, disease prevention, and longevity. I am amazed to think that this huge and complicated arrangement is for the simple purpose of just seeing a doctor! Is it any wonder about the high cost of medical insurance?

Of the fourfold miseries mentioned in the Vedas—(re)birth, disease, old age, and death—the first three are on prominent display, while death is indirectly present since people have come here to prolong life, if not to postpone inevitable death. As I’m writing this an old gentleman struggles to lift himself out of a chair, and then, slowly, with great difficulty hobbles across the room to the toilet—which I unwittingly sat next to. When he exists he is unable to fully close the door, and then it opens fully, and with it, the terrible smell of his bowel business. Grimacing and shaking my head I leap out my seat to close the door. As I again sit down, I have to smile at the naked form of matter, thinking that health clinic waiting rooms are a great negative impetus to practice bhakti.

After 45 minutes my name is called and I am escorted to another waiting room where two medical staff are busy doing data entry. I am told to take my seat, and I wonder how long it might take. Before I can take out my book, a nurse walks up to me and asks to take my pulse and temperature, and lets me stand on a scale to check my weight. I always joke that if no pulse can be found, then there’s no need to continue. So far that hasn’t happened. She takes me to a room for seeing the doctor, and I sit down. During this time I spoke to her about what I have seen in the clinic, and she agrees that better organization and efficiency are urgently needed—and she says, “Don’t get me started,” as this is one of her pet peeves. She leaves to tend to other patients. During the 15 minutes I wait for the doctor I look around at all the posters illustrating various illnesses and various facilities at the clinic. I especially like the Physician’s prayer on the wall:
 photo Doctor praying_zpsdu9amfhk.jpg
“O Lord, in your wisdom and power and love, you heal the sick when all other help has failed and restore men to life after life itself is done.
I pray that you will light my mind through knowledge of remedies for my patient’s ills and touch my heart with deep compassion for the suffering.
When I stretch out my hand to minister to the sick, let me heal them with a portion of your wisdom and power.
And when they are not to be healed, let me help them to a deeper faith and resignation in your love.”

While this prayer seems from a bygone age, and somewhat out of place in this sterile environment, I am grateful for the sentiment and reference to God. As I am lost in thoughts about this, the doctor enters. He’s a kindly, though overweight man of short stature, whom I have seen before when I had a nasty flu. We have a natural rapport and he’s very open, though hurried--and I joke about his tennis shoes which help him run between patients. I mention how much I appreciate the Physician's prayer, and he says, "O, that," as if it is an embarrassment.

My presenting ailments on this day were a possible prostrate problem, and a pain in my lower back. He examines me and he recommends the appropriate blood work. (In a week I am called and given the name of an antibiotic I should take to deal with some unwanted bacteria, and then in another week, I am told that I was given the wrong one and should stop taking it, and buy the new one. For me, antibiotics are a total last resort, and so I don't get either, and wonder if I should see a specialist, since my presenting problems were not really addressed.) I give the doctor the same observation as I did to the nurse and he also knows that the clinic isn’t being managed well.

I get the feeling though that this problem will likely continue since the clinic is being run by a large conglomerate--which is another possible problem with modern medicine: When the practice of medicine becomes just a cooperate entity whose goal is to make a profit, giving the best care isn't necessarily the goal. As I leave, I dream of small, local, healing centers with both conventional and complementary medicine, where the doctors and staff know, and care about, the patients in a very personal way, and have time to find out how you are in different areas of your life that could be affecting your health. I wonder if I will ever see this.
While Medical Systams photo Alternative-Health_zpsau9xcuxd.png photo Happy Krishna_zps8ns2lklb.jpg