[26 September, 2010]

socialism even works sometimes

The San Francisco Department of Public Health requires all health care workers (including mental health) to pass a tuberculosis (TB) test before working face-to-face with San Francisco residents. In order to fulfill this and finally be able to see clients at my practicum agency, and without health insurance of my own, I have gone to the:

1. Berkeley Free Clinic over Labor Day. Since this is volunteer gig for the workers there, the medical staff did not show up on a holiday weekend.

2. Back to the Berkeley Free Clinic a week later, to hopefully do the skin test for TB. Got that done, thank god.

3. Back to the Berkeley Free Clinic a week after that, to get my skin test results. Not surprisingly, because I've had a TB vaccine as an infant in Russia, the skin test was positive (at least I know the vaccine is still in there working?). This means that I don't have clearance and must get chest x-rays taken in order to verify that I do not indeed have TB (the working vaccine and lack of any symptoms apparently are not enough for a rule-out diagnosis).

4. A week later, off to the Berkeley Department of Public Health, which was listed under resources who might do x-rays without insurance, as given to me by the Berkeley Free Clinic. Turns out, this is a government building without medical equipment or medical staff. Go to the county hospital, crazy lady!

5. The same day, show up at the County Hospital, who allegedly provides services to the uninsured. And yes, they do, they could even do those damn x-rays, except not today. How about an appointment in a week?

6. Show up for my x-ray appointment, while skipping other scheduled responsibilities, because this is my only chance, clearly. After a few hours of jumping through bureaucratic hoops, I finally get a chest x-ray! The process of which takes less than 2 minutes. Oh, but they have to develop the x-ray and have a medical staff look at it, so come back in another week to get the final results.

7. Here I am. Next week is October and I started this whole ordeal over Labor Day. I still have no proof that I don't have TB, but I hope that the end is in sight. Wish me luck that the x-ray and TB gods will smile on this last leg of my journey as an uninsured consumer of public medicine.

But just imagine that even after all this, I am still a firm supporter of socialized healthcare. I am even pretty excited that in this country of extreme capitalism, run in part by banks and insurance companies, I am fairly able to have my needs met in hard financial times when I cannot pay extra for medical coverage. We have a lot to learn, of course, about how to run socialized programs, but giving up on them is not a way to get to a place where people are taken care of regardless of income.

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