A Message from a Tired Doctor

Must Some Lives Be Worth More Than Others?

Angel Boligan, El Universal, Mexico City, www.caglecartoons.com

I’m a family physician practicing in our community, and I’m tired. Before I get into that, for those of you who may not know what a family physician does, we are primary care providers. Like all primary care providers, we are a patient’s first point of contact with the healthcare system. We can definitively address a vast majority of acute health problems. We address cancer screenings, vaccinations, well visits, and other health screenings like blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure. We discuss and advise on therapeutic lifestyle change (TLC) such as nutrition, exercise, nicotine, alcohol, and tobacco use. We are also on the front lines of STI (sexually transmitted infection) screening, prevention, and treatment, as well as reproductive and sexual health for all gender identities.

It’s a lot, but we do it because we have felt a calling to help our fellow humans. We like developing long term relationships with our patients. We like to get to know them as unique and complete individuals.

We are also facing a primary care crisis in our community — and in most communities around the country for that matter. Just ask anyone who has a primary care provider how easy it is to get an appointment with them. 

All this to say that I’m tired. Not of the work — that I enjoy. I’m tired of spending at least an hour of my day tending to administrative duties while patients can’t get in to see me just so that health-insurance companies and big pharma can rake in billion dollar profits.

I’m tired of watching my patients get sicker and die early deaths because of financial barriers to care. I’m tired of crafting a great plan of care only to have it be derailed because of health-insurance and pharmacy-benefit manager restrictions that are designed to generate profit at the expense of peoples’ well-being.

Dr. Ali Javanbakht

I’m tired of having to look at someone who is suffering and come to the stark realization that any treatment options I offer would be dead in the water because this person doesn’t have health insurance.

If I were practicing in an area where resources were scarce and everyone had to do with less, that would be different. But we live in the wealthiest nation in the history of the world. We have people who could single-handedly end all this suffering and still have billions. Yet they choose to purchase nesting yachts and a fourth summer home in Cinque Terre or go full ludicrous mode and ride into space.

Our current health-care system is declaring loud and clear that some lives are worth more than others. Poor people, undocumented immigrants, people of color, members of the LGBTQ community can suffer and die and that’s okay so long as someone is making a killing (literally and figuratively).

I’ve often wondered what it would take for our country to make a fundamental change to its health-care delivery system. I guess we haven’t hit it yet. And that makes me tired.

What does give me hope is CalCare. It’s a bill that would basically implement a Medicare-for-all system in California. Every single person in California would be covered. No one would be left out. No one would pay for care at the time of need. No one would have to forego treatment or ration medications because of cost. Everyone in. No one out. Patients before profits. Save money. Save lives.

CalCare will be coming up for complex Legislative Committee discussion, voting, and debate followed by other committees’ vehement exchange of ideas before possibly going to a floor for consideration of maybe voting if there are enough votes before votes are cast in January 2023. (I don’t understand the legislative process very well.) Needless to say, there are many forces fighting against such a bill even going through the most preliminary of legislative stages.

So, if you’re like me, and you’re tired — or, if you’re not tired but feel so moved that you want to do something about my tiredness — contact your Assemblymember and State Senator and tell them you support CalCare. The entities that are getting wealthy off of peoples’ sickness and death will be working vehemently to preserve their wealth and power. Therefore, the voice of the voter is more important than ever.

Until then, I will go to work and carry my mental fatigue and outrage on my back in my mental fatigue and outrage bag, and when little kids come up to ask me if I’m Santa, I will sigh heavily and say, “No. I’m a family physician.”

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