Story Bank: Dr. Barbara Covey, Oakland

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Dr. Barbara Covey, Oakland

What does your typical day look like?

A: “I see people from all walks of life. I see people with minor injuries, hangnails, and bruises, cuts, and colds, and coughs, and sore throats to people with serious medical problems like heart attacks, pneumonia, serious traumas. So it varies but I pretty much see the gambit of what there is to see.”

What do you like most about your job?

A: “The part I like the most is the interaction with the people. I think there’s nothing more privileged than having that close an interaction with people, being that close to their lives, learning their stories, and being able to have an impact, perhaps, on them and they have an impact on you because everybody has their own history, their own story, and I think we all learn from each other.”

Do you see patients without health insurance?

A: “So I think in the emergency department, we do see a disproportionate number of people without insurance and without access to health care. Just this last shift, I saw a woman whose diabetes was out of control, hasn’t seen a medical provider for over a year, and hasn’t been on medications for over a year, and was having complications of her medical problems because of that lack of care.”

What are some daily challenges you face in the medical field?

A: “A large number of people don’t have those resources, don’t have that luxury of having access to the services that they need, meaning after I see them in the emergency department, they will not necessarily be able to do XYZ as recommended and their outcomes are not going to be as good because of that and that’s a very frustrating piece of delivering medical care in today’s society. The hopelessness is really palpable. When I’m saying to someone, 'I would recommend this or that, and this is what I’m concerned about', and there’s just this sense of, 'Well, that’s great, but how are we going to achieve that? How is that going to happen? What am I supposed to do that I haven’t done already?’ Sometimes I can work with care management and social services to work things out, but that’s the hardest part. The sense that there is just no way that they’re ever going to be able to achieve their health objective because they don’t have the insurance to do that. It’s hard enough to deal with illness without being able to at least use the tools and the treatments and the medicines that should be available to that person for treatment.”

Why is MaineCare important to our community?

A: “How do you think you might be covered? What do you think your safety net might be? If you have children or if that happens to your parents...health care is just a basic necessity. You know, think about what it might mean to you as an individual if you were in this position, and keep mind when you’re doing that, what it means to the state and to our community not to have everybody covered for their health care needs and hopefully realize that it’s shortsighted to think that this is not a necessary piece of our community support."