On my last doctor’s visit I found myself immersed in a copy of Reader’s Digest from 1989 – my choices were extremely limited, as you might imagine. It was either that or a You magazine from 2001. Thinking about it now, the You might have been a slightly better choice, though I do miss those old-school jokes in the Reader’s Digest.
You can tell a lot about a doctor by the reading material in his waiting room – well, I certainly believe you can.
Rummage through the pile of tardy tabloids on the glasstop table and you’ll sometimes come across old copies of some exotic car magazines which I have no doubt are often purposely left there to remind us all about how much money he’s making, in case we failed to notice the Jaguar in the car park.
Then, of course, there’s the past copies of Garden and Home – no doubt from his wife, who may or may not be an amateur interior decorator, a hobby she pursues with her husband’s cash.
This is the kind of stuff I speculate about in the waiting room.
Spend enough time in one and you’ll have a theory for just about anything.
Doctors seldom keep to appointments. And I like to make up reasons in my head why they’re always running late. A meeting with a Sars investigator? Closing a property deal? A secret liaison with a nurse? Who knows what these guys get up to.
Getting back to my last doctor’s visit, it’s eventually my turn and I’m ushered into the examination room where the doc greets me with the words, “So tell me what’s wrong with you today?”
“Err, wait a second, isn’t that your job?” I resist saying out loud.
The rest of the consultation is like an episode of Crossing Over with John Edwards – a whole lot of fishing and guesswork.
“Is your throat sore? Have you been coughing? Is your nose blocked?”
“Yes, yes and yes,” I reply.
“Okay, you’re got a throat infection, a cough and nasal congestion. I’m putting you on some antibiotics,” he says while scribbling a prescription.
And that was that. I had to torture myself with old magazines and SABC1 for two hours in a stuffy waiting room to hear something I knew already.
But what did I expect?
The idealist in me still longs for the day a doctor will explain to me why I got sick in the first place, an explanation that goes beyond the usual, “you’ve picked up a bug”.
But the realist in me knows that it’s not in the interests of the medical practitioners or pharmaceutical companies to do anything besides provide temporary fixes.
The advent of antibiotics has basically allowed doctors to sit on their asses and let the pill do the work.
And if the pill doesn’t work for some reason, then you send ‘em off to somebody else. Next patient, please.
Maybe I should be grateful that my GP writes me a sick note and gets me off work, but I just can’t help wondering what happened to doctors giving patients actual advice?
For instance, I have never in my years of going to doctors ever been told not to eat junk food. And I’ve often wondered why not? The truth is that doctors these days are too distracted to really care what you do in between visits.
If he is not in it to save orphans in Burundi he is in it for the money. Bottom line. I am not passing judgement here, I am just stating the facts.
You put yourself in his position. If you’ve spent six years buried in books while everyone else is having fun, then spent another bunch of years after that giving syphilis injections in public hospitals, you’d also not give a s**t once you entered private practice.
You probably would’ve also developed a sense of entitlement, a sense of, “I did my time, now you’ll pay for my Maserati”.
These days many doctors won’t even look at you unless they see cash or a medical aid card first. It’s strictly business. And why shouldn’t it be? It’s not like doctors are supposed to be humanitarian or something, right?
I heard a story once about a guy who arrived at a doctor’s house with an axe in his head. The guy didn’t have his medical aid card so the doctor gave him two aspirins and pointed him in the direction of the nearest public hospital.
They just don’t make doctors the way they used to.
But what are our options? It’s not like you can remove that brain tumour yourself. The vast majority of people place their complete trust in doctors and sit back and let them rape their medical aid savings without question.
Not me, though. Unless it’s an axe-in-the-head scenario – in which case I’ll be sure to carry my Discovery card – I will take my chances with Wikipedia and a trip to my local pharmacy.