To stay healthy, we need more doctors in Lincoln

Editor's column
By: Carol Feineman, Editor
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Hearing a doctor say “you have blood poisoning” last Tuesday was devastating.

Blood poisoning can be fatal, if not treated properly. The doctor told me to go immediately to the hospital that night if symptoms worsened.

The Roseville urgent care doctor asked why it took four days before I sought medical help.

The simple answer is I thought the rash on my swollen fingers caused by a spider bite four days before would go away on its own.

The complex answer, tied to the medical industry and the local and regional economies, is Lincoln has a doctors’ shortage. A few months ago, my primary care physician left the Sutter medical office on Twelve Bridges Drive for the Kaiser medical office across the street. Her Sutter position has not yet been filled.

As a result, I am technically without a doctor.

When I couldn’t feel the water while washing my right hand and after discovering a bright rash spreading on my right side last Tuesday, however, I called my Lincoln doctor’s office.

I’ve been with Sutter Health in Lincoln for two years and I love the doctors’ expertise and the office being less than two miles from my house. I often tell friends to give them a try. Especially because I can always get an appointment to see someone on the same day I call.

That didn’t happen last week. I tried to make an appointment because I wasn’t sure if I had an infected spider bite or possibly a Lyme tick bite. I was told the next available appointment was nine days away.

I pleaded to have any doctor, nurse practitioner or nurse examine my hand for just five minutes that day. I was transferred to another office staff member, who said the next available appointment was in 12 days. The staff member explained that my former doctor’s replacement wasn’t hired yet, one doctor was on vacation and one doctor was away on an emergency. She urged me to go to an urgent care facility if it was life-threatening.

The point was I didn’t know if it was life-threatening or just an annoying insect bite.

That night, as my hand felt like it was on fire, I stopped at the first facility I saw. I’m grateful for Dr. Joseph Flores at MDSTAT Urgent Care off of Pleasant Grove Boulevard, eight miles from my downtown Lincoln office. I didn’t need an appointment to see Flores although he’s not my doctor.

With office hours of 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Flores sees many patients. Yet he made time to call me at 11:30 p.m. after my first visit and at 8:45 a.m. the next morning to see how I was doing.

Thanks to the Roseville doctor’s caring and services last week, I recovered from an unexpected and serious infection without having to visit the hospital.

Unfortunately, many Lincoln residents (not at their choosing) are also without a primary care physician.

For weeks, Facebook has been buzzing with comments by frustrated residents trying to find local doctors taking new patients. It’s not just Sutter that needs to expand its staff. My friends insured by Kaiser say they’re scrambling to find doctors as several staff members are not accepting new patients.

With Lincoln’s population at more than 47,000 and new housing developments in the works, we must attract new doctors now so that residents have access to quick medical care.

Without having to drive out of town, Lincoln residents deserve the same quality of care I found last week at the Roseville facility. Hopefully, the Lincoln medical institutions will make hiring additional doctors a No. 1 priority and more out-of-town doctors will move to Lincoln and open practices here.

It really is a matter of life or death as well as our quality of life.