When you visit any of your doctors, do you feel like you are just another number? When you leave the office, do you feel you haven’t had all your questions answered? Do you remember when your doctor was like an extension of your family, and had only your best interest in mind?

If you can remember doctors making house calls, you are as old as I am. My regular GP was a survivor of the Nazi death camps during WW2. He climbed four flights of stairs to make house calls for my bad tonsils, measles, and mumps. When he rolled up the sleeves of his white shirt, I saw the numbers tattooed on his arm. He charged $5 a visit.

I read in the papers that a doctor in New York City charges a cut rate of $745 on house calls to serve his older patients, when the standard call is $3,000-$5,000 a visit plus $250 for transportation.

As a child, I had my tonsils taken out in a surgeon’s office, which was also his home, to save on the hospital cost. I remember the doctor putting an ether mask on my face and then waking up in his recovery room. I heard him say to my parents, just loud enough so I could hear, “And give him plenty of ice cream.”

My eye doctor was one of the nicest people anyone could meet. Doc started his exam by asking what was new or changed in my life to see how it may have affected my vision. He allotted an hour to an hour and a half for each exam, talking about the eyes as well as generalities. If the prescription did not change, he did not charge; if new glasses were needed, he charged $35. He was my eye doctor for 46 years. His last bill was $55 for new glasses.

The most recent pair of glasses I purchased cost around $700, with an exam of course, and I had to see two techs before I saw the doctor – who could not care less about why my eyesight may have changed. And I still can’t see out of them.

When I moved to Lake Hopatcong, my new GP and I hit it off right from the beginning. I felt like the little kid again with the wise old country doctor. He explained what was wrong with me, how he could fix it, and what might be coming along in the future. In short, he talked to me and the clock did not matter.

One day, he smiled and said, “Tony, if you want it, I can write you a prescription for a sample pack of Viagra.” I said to him, “No thanks, doc, you’re not my type. Besides, I have a little headache today.” He laughed.

Today you most likely step into a reception room that is overbooked, wait 30-45 minutes past your appointment time to get 5, 10, or 15 minutes with your doctor, and hope he does not refer you to another doctor at another location to find out what is wrong with you. One doctor sent a letter to his patients stating that those who wanted to spend “premium” time with him would be charged $75 more for 15 minutes.

I like my present doctor. He has a great personality and talks to me about my complaints. But I still miss that old-fashioned doctor who made me feel he was there for only me, and was not just going to say “Next!”

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Tony is a 30 year resident of Lake Hopatcong, New Jersey. He is a graduate of Ramapo College with a degree in American Literature and has his New Jersey Teacher’s Certificate. He also has his MBA in Business from FDU. Tony wrote for AIM and had his own column, "For What It’s Worth," for 9 years. He recently retired after working for 46 years in the corporate world.

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