It’s been more than a year, and COVID is still going strong. It’s made a lot of people sick and it’s killed a lot of people. The lockdowns and social distancing have given most people cabin fever, and the ongoing stress has been bad for everyone’s mental health. But what about those of us who have chronic health conditions, whether mental or physical? How has our access to health care been impacted by COVID?
Lack of in-person care
It seems like my blogging friends in therapy have been among those hit the hardest. There’s no way virtual therapy could ever be a true substitute for actual presence. Some people have been able to get back to in-person therapy, some have muddled through, while others have had permanent ruptures with their therapists.
After some initial COVID confusion, my doctor started “seeing” patients by phone. His office staff have always sucked, and the phone thing only made that worse. It was doable when I needed something specific, but otherwise, it seemed like more bother than it was worth.
In summer 2020, my speech started getting quite impaired because of psychomotor retardation from my depression. Phone is harder than in person, so I showed up at the doctor’s office twice asking to see him in person, but the receptionists put the kibosh on that. Around the same time I sent in my disability benefits application. I talked to the doc a few times by phone, which was annoying because when I called the receptionists would always ask if I had an appointment, yet they would never offer me an appointment. I’d been hoping to wait until my speech got a bit better before going over the disability thing, but then I heard from the government with a deadline.
For the next 4 months, I was basically without real mental health care, because I had to keep hounding him to do the damn paperwork. I saw him once, because I showed up at his office and freaked out. On one occasion, I taped notes to the office entrance before it opened in the hope that it would get his attention.
Difficulties finding health care providers
Since the disability fiasco, it’s just been one hassle after another. A nurse practitioner at a nearby clinic was taking patients, but their receptionist said nope because I’m already “connected” to a doctor. How could I get disconnected? Yeah, no, I couldn’t. Um, ok.
Then there was the psychiatrist who cancelled half an hour before a scheduled appointment because apparently my needs can’t be met through a virtual clinic. Not that anyone will see me in person, but ok.
Being sicker makes access harder
It hasn’t helped that all of this has made my depression worse, which has made my movement slower and my speech more impaired. GPs don’t know what severe psychomotor retardation is, unless they happened to see it in their psych rotation in med school back in the day. So they hear me on the phone and think I’m stupid, because that’s just what people assume. In the last month, I’ve talked to 4 random GPs on the phone, and it just doesn’t work.
It doesn’t help matters that I’ve worked for too many years in the mental health system in this city and I know far too many people working in community mental health. It’s highly unlikely that I could manage to get myself hooked up to a community mental health team without stumbling across multiple people I’ve known professionally at some point along the way. That would just be excessively gross, and I really don’t need a mental health team anyway, so I’m choosing not to go in that direction.
So that’s my rant about COVID and health care. I know I’m certainly not the only one. There were all kinds of systems issues to begin with, plus stigma means that psych patients are likely to get a lower standard of care, and then COVID had added an extra layer of difficulty on top of all of that. Do you have any ranting of your own to do?
Visit the Mental Health Resource Directory for a collection of useful mental health websites and apps.