Friday, April 20, 2007

Shortage of Rheumatologists: Feeling the Pinch

According to the Arthritis Foundation, the number or rheumatology patients is increasing while the number of practicing rheumatologists is decreasing. I hadn't really seen any evidence of that until today. Today, I am trying to find a new rheumatologist in my new city. Said city has one of the best rheumatology departments in the country, but only about 15 practicing rheumatologists in the metro area (which has a population of about 1 million).

For arthritis patients, continuity of care is very important to prevent irreversible joint damage or systemic damage. So, when moving to a new area, it is very important to see a new rheumatologist as quickly as possible. It is even more important if you are on an IV drug regimen like Remicade. Lapses in treatment schedule allow the levels of the drug in the body to drop, causing inflammation, swelling, pain and possibly joint damage.

For the reasons above, I was hoping my rheumatologist here in Maryland would know someone in my new city or do some research for me. He did not; so today, I started calling rheumatologists in my new city. The earliest one could see me so far is July. The major rheumatology center at the teaching hospital has a wait of about 6 months. I am due for my next Remicade infusion on 31 May. I need someone to take mercy on me and at least give me my medicine. So now, I need to have my rheumatologist try to talk to another rheumatologist and see if they will budge.

It's just very frustrating. And this is in a city that has choices among rheumatologists. I wonder about the people who have to drive hours to see a rheumatologist. And the ones who only have one rheumatologist near them. What happens if that doctor retires or passes away? It makes me wonder why rheumatology is not chosen as a specialty by medical school graduates.

So, for once, I am feeling the pinch of this shortage. I am frustrated and upset. I'm trying not to take that out on anyone I've spoken to at these clinics, but I need my medicine. Today is the best I've felt in about two years. I don't want to have to suffer needlessly when a simple drug treatment could keep the inflammation, pain, swelling and damage at bay.


bint alshamsa said...

I have faced the very same problem. In one city I lived in, there was only one rheumatologist and this wasn't a little city either. There was a three month wait just to get into the rheumie clinic. In Yahoo! Groups, there are lupus groups and maybe you could join a few so that you can ask around about whether anyone knows the names of any rheumatologists in the city where you are moving. I've had a bit of luck with that sort of thing. Perhaps it would help you too.

Hang in there!

betsyl said...

i don't know where you're moving to, but "halfway across the country" from maryland makes me think in the midwest somewhere. so, if you're headed towards minnesota and the twin cities in particular, email me, and i'll give you the name for my clinic. i think my rd isn't taking new patients, but other people in her clinic are, and i've heard good recommendations about quite a few of the others.