A good portion of my day was spent in the waiting room of the UCSF emergency ward. Without telling too much of her business, I will say that my friend Elizabeth had a really bad reaction to the lengthy virus that is going around, and there was a bit of drama there for a while. She is ok now, but the situation went down like this:
My friend had a reaction and she used her cell phone to call friends about it. She was too sick to drive, so she paid for a cab to take her to the emergency room. Alerted via text messages and phone calls, three friends went to the hospital to stay with her. Once she was treated she flashed her health insurance card and was discharged. Thankfully our friend Vicki has a car, and she drove Elizabeth home while two friends in the backseat worked on their cell phone and Blackberry to find out which pharmacies were open on a Saturday evening. Elizabeth was dropped off at home, while Vicki and I drove miles to an open pharmacy—which was NOT nearby. I pretended to be Elizabeth and I picked up her medication with her insurance card and her credit card. We also stopped at Safeway to pick up some things for a BRAT diet (bananas, rice, apple sauce, and toast), and paid with Elizabeth’s cash. It took 1 ½ hours to gather all this stuff, and then we took it back to Elizabeth at her home.
It was impossible not to think of how entirely a different situation this would have been for someone who is low-income and living in poverty.
There would probably be no cell phone to alert friends. There would be no money to pay for a cab, so the person not feeling well would have to stand on the corner waiting for a bus, and endure the jolting of a bus making stops at every other corner. There would be no insurance so the sick person would receive a big, fat bill at the end of their emergency stay. Or more likely, they would have had to go to San Francisco General Hospital which gives fine care to people, but the place is a zoo. The person who is ill wouldn’t know which pharmacies are open, so would have to try a couple of them before someone informs her that there are only two Walgreens open on Saturday night. Then she would have to take the bus half way across town to an open pharmacy IF she even had any money or a credit card to purchase the medications. On the way home, the sick person would do the best she could to gather BRAT items at a convenience store where the price of those items would be jacked up and she may or may not be able to afford them. The trip that took Vicki 1 ½ hours to fulfill would easily take someone 3 hours on public transportation.
Virtually every step of the process would have been 2-3 times harder than it was yesterday. And today I am soaking that fact in-- in solidarity with the poor.