Thursday, September 22, 2016

A Trip to the S.F. V.A. Medical Center

As I wrote earlier, I recently "enlisted" in the Veteran's Administration's health care system, or whatever it's called.
Tuesday we made our first trip to their San Francisco medical facility. I was told I kinda had to in order to be officially processed into the system.

Since we also had a pending appointment at the UCSF medical center, we tried to coordinate the two appointments. That was easier said than done, although the V.A. clinic was easier to contact. Easy to contact but they're pretty well booked up, too, so good luck getting the ideal time and day to match the two appointments.

The V.A. center is about two miles from UCSF as it turned out. Last time we were in San Francisco we drove by it in order to get an idea of where we'd be going. Monday night,  while at the Villa Inn, we looked at the appointment cards they'd sent us and noticed slightly different directions to the V.A. than we'd taken the first time. We decided to try their instructions.

The V.A.'s instructions worked better. The center is on Clement Street, which is what we drove down the first time, but going one street further down to Stanyan is a lot less hassle- less stop and go, so quicker.

We had a 10am appointment, but they recommended getting there a half hour early, which we try to do anyway, especially it being somewhere we'd never been before. We made it in plenty of time. In fact, maybe a bit too early.

A bit confusing at first, but we found a parking spot- free parking, unlike UCSF, although it doesn't look as if they have the capacity for cars UCSF does. We went inside the building and had to ask passersby where we needed to go. Friendly people pointed us in the right direction. I liked this place better than UCSF already.

Going to the first floor to check in, the clerk was helpful and the waiting room not very full. The clerk even laughed a bit with us. That's not something you see often at UCSF. She had me fill out a form I gave back to her when completed. 

Then I had to try out the I.D. kiosk I'd been told about. That's how you officially show you were there so they can mail you your travel money. It's like a big ATM. I was a bit confused at first with what option to pick but I picked one, ran my V.A. ID card through the slot and finished the process fairly quickly. Or did I? There wasn't any "Thank You" or other indication I'd done it correctly. The screen just went back to the starting page.

I told the wife I wasn't sure if it worked. She suggested trying it again to see what happens. Maybe it would tell me I already checked in if I'd done it right the first time? We went on to our first appointment, planning on dealing with the check- in kiosk before leaving.

We sat in the waiting room and I was quickly called to a small room where they took my blood pressure and other vital stats. Then we were called to another room where a pretty gal- a nurse practitioner- greeted us. She took us into an office for an interview and even gave me a cursory exam. 

She was also fun to speak with as she had a sense of humor. Again, not something you find often at UCSF. Who'da thunk humor at a V.A. facility?

After an hour or so we left her office to places I don't recall, mostly just checking the place out. I'll have to admit I was confused and had no idea how to get out of the place had I the need to.

The nurse practitioner did order a prescription for me, though, so we went in search of the pharmacy. We found it and I was impressed with their system. you take a number and wait, except I just picked my number when they called it. I went to the counter and they told me it would take about 20 more minutes for my prescription to be ready. 

The gal pointed to a digital screen on the waiting room wall with a list of names. Those screens seemed to be in just about every room we passed by. When your prescription was ready your name would show up on the screen. Rite Aid pharmacy could take a hint from their system.

We went and wandered around getting back to the pharmacy just as my name showed up on the screen. I picked up my prescription- no charge- and we went on our way.

Time for lunch so we had to find the cafeteria. We followed some signs and eventually found it. Crowded, but not too bad. You order you meal at a counter much like a Subway sandwich shop. Yell it to the cook. 

They had a bunch of stuff, with much of the usual: hamburgers, french fries, salads and such. I just ordered some french fries. I ordered a vegie burger for the wife and the cook said something about no vegie burgers available. Something about substituting black beans instead. I couldn't really hear him over the din so just nodded my head.

After five minutes or so we had our meals and went to find a seat in the dining room. It was packed but we found one spot not far from the big picture windows that overlook the ocean and beach outside. I mentioned to the wife the next day that at least the UCSF food court wasn't so crowded. She pointed out it might well be as crowded if it was lunchtime. Good point.

We got done with lunch and left, fumbling our way to the exit. I was so mixed up I wasn't even sure which direction the parking lots were once we got outside. But it all came together. We found our car and drove back to the Villa Inn.

I much prefer that place to UCSF for the ambiance if nothing else. One thing that kind of disturbed me was when the nurse practitioner was interviewing us. She kept referring to us switching my care to the V.A. That wasn't what I had in mind, at least to start with. I just wanted the V.A. as an alternate or back up. I tried to explain that to her but she didn't seem to get it.

Oh, well, If I do end up switching care to the V.A. center, I could probably do worse. Easier to get to and friendlier people.


At 9:29 AM, Blogger Sally Sheffield said...

Sounds good, Fred. 😃. Did you ever find out for sure about the travel voucher?

At 9:29 AM, Blogger Sally Sheffield said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 9:56 AM, Blogger Fred Mangels said...

I tried it again before we left and got the impession I did it right. When the money shows up, I have no idea. It's supposed to be $240.00. Not bad for a "victim".

At 4:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Headline should have been: Curmudgeonly But Lovable Libertarian Tries Out Single-Payer Health Care, Finds Out It's Pretty Darn Good After All.

At 4:47 PM, Blogger Fred Mangels said...

It's a benefit, although whether I deserve that benefit is questionable.

At 3:56 PM, Blogger Rick Wentworth said...

just back from vaca but have to say this . can do another post later .
dont get stuck at san fran office and get doc. appointed to you there . if that happens it be the only doc you can see .
my VA doc is in clearlake , and called my primary care doc. thru VA . get one in eureka , if you need then visit san fran

At 6:31 PM, Blogger Fred Mangels said...

That's what that thing I mentioned a while back was about where some guy was saying"they were trying to privatize the V.S. They give you an id card so if you're more than 40 miles from a V.A. medical center and the appointment there can't be made for 30 days, you can use the card to access local providers, assuming they'll accept V.A. reimbursement.

They have nurse practicioners working at the Eureka V.A. office. I saw them walking around in their white coats.Not sure if you need one of those cards to meet with them.

I realized this last few days I seem to have lost my card.

At 9:45 AM, Blogger Rick Wentworth said...

i signed up for VA online , 6 months later found out i was approved and was appointed a doc ant clearlake clinic and now she is primary doc for my VA . if i need to go to san fran it only be for specialized service not in clearlake . i got my ears tested in santa rosa and everything else in clearlake thru video chat and got my new VA ears which are great . they even gave me 10 % disability for life . nice extra check
get a good councilor in eureka and sit and talk , you never know what problems you have COULD be covered by VA till you ask
they will even cover my diabetes but perscription cost is more than my other medical coverage prescription cost


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