Opinion: Tahoe Forest — and the hypothetical alternative
February 5, 2015
To anyone inclined to complain about quality of health care, services or costs at Tahoe Forest Hospital, please consider developing mysterious symptoms and visiting a specialist at San Francisco General Hospital.
Your (dis)appointment might proceed something like this:
You will receive a referral from your local doctor to see the SFGH specialist and you will schedule your appointment. When scheduling (because you are from Tahoe), you will ask about the locations of patient parking.
You'll be told the two locations of patient parking and that you will receive a packet in the mail containing all the information you need as well as forms to be completed. You'll wonder if they really just hung up on you.
“You will realize that only an expert physician like the one who referred you here, the one who has spent so much time trying to help you, only a doctor who really cares about patient care would choose to work in a godforsaken dilapidated place like this.”
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Five months later when you arrive at SFGH for that first available appointment, you'll arrive especially early because, despite repeated phone calls, your packet was never mailed. You will appreciate arriving early when you learn you were misinformed about patient parking: They are public parking lots and they're full.
After circling an ever-widening expanse of city blocks many times you will eventually park your fuel-efficient rental car with no studs in a tow-away zone and hope for the best as you head in for your long-anticipated appointment. Because you are 45 minutes early, you will think you have ample time.
Instead, the registration process will take 105 minutes as you navigate all the computer glitches and lines of suffering humanity and suppurating wounds at all the different windows, wards and elevators you must pass through before being admitted to your waiting area.
From there, you will eventually be led into a concrete-block examining room where you will wait a little longer beneath — yes — flickering lights. Your specialist will finally enter to ask that you describe your symptoms.
The specialist will not examine you. The specialist will not look at the reports from your referring doctor. Instead, the specialist will look at the clock before interrupting to say that your symptoms are unusual, to which you will respond, "Yes, that's why my doctor sent me here, because you guys are the experts."
As you utter those words, you will realize that only an expert physician like the one who referred you here, the one who has spent so much time trying to help you, only a doctor who really cares about patient care would choose to work in a godforsaken dilapidated place like this.
You will realize that the bright-eyed physician covering for the specialist you have been waiting all these months to see and who by now has left the building is looking past you, merely enduring a grueling residency while the clock ticks toward a much more lucrative specialization elsewhere.
You will realize you've been seeing an expert caregiver in the finest of facilities all along and that believing anything else just cost you five months and one really long disappointing day.
Minutes later, as you head back toward where you parked illegally hours before, you will want to take a shower, now.
And as you crawl through evening commute traffic toward, over and away from the Bay Bridge in the little car you rented for the day, on your way back to Tahoe, you will realize you are overwhelmingly grateful for the abundance of care you receive at home.
Anne Grogan is a former local writer and editor who today admits personal bias and applauds the efforts of Tahoe Forest Hospital's current and former staff, board and community for ensuring outstanding quality of care in our region.