Dr. Jeffrey Drobis is a Kaiser primary care doctor in Kensington, a specialist in internal medicine and a caring physician who at one time spent many volunteer hours seeing troubled and sick young persons at a free clinic.

"Jeff Drobis is a beautiful human being," a friend said.

"I think I went to work in this plan because I just wasn't interested in becoming a business person, involved in the business part of medicine," Drobis said.

"I think we deliver good medicine. I have patients I know very well, patients who've been seeing me seven, eight, nine, 10 years," going back to the days of the Georgetown plan out of which Kaiser grew.

Another doctor familiar with the Kaiser system said more critically:

"Kaiser is an excellent institution for traditional medicine. They very efficiently take care of disease.

"They don't always take as good care of people. The main problem, I think, is high volume. A doctor is not only expected to see 20 to 22 patients each day, he can also have to see walk-ins and do paperwork and answer the phone, etc. You can't practice good medicine in my view with what may really average out to 11 or 12 minutes a patient.

"This is factory medicine. But it isn't just Kaiser. It's the whole American medical system."

To this, Drobis replied:

"We do average 11, or maybe 10, patients each morning and also each afternoon. Some of these are open slots for urgent appointments.

"There are some unusual mornings and afternoons when we see 15 patients. There are some days when it's really crazy, especially in winter. But on average, I think the pace is reasonable. If somebody needs the time, you spend it."

Compared with fee-for-service medical practice, he said, "I think we see fewer patients, rather than more."

Even the more critical doctor added that despite any time problems, "Some people manage very well in the Kaiser system. Compared with picking a doctor blind, they do guarantee a standard of technical competence."

The father in a family of Kaiser patients -- a family with two children, formerly Kaiser members in California, living in the Washington area for 13 months -- said:

"Medically, the quality of care has always been good. Not perfect.

"I cut my finger badly the other night. I couldn't go to the nearest hospital, four or five minutes away, without authorization, if I wanted to be sure they would pay. I went to Takoma Park, 10 or 12 minutes away, and that was at night -- it would have been forever in rush hour.

"They took very good care of me. I was out in an hour."

What is his main complaint?

"There are times when you can't get them on the phone. You can get put on hold for 15 minutes. Then you talk to a nurse and she says you need an appointment. So then you have to phone the appointment desk, and you can be on hold that long again."

One more story. A frantic mother took her sick child to a small hospital not used by Kaiser. The doctor on duty there was sub-standard, says a Kaiser doctor. "He called us to ask, 'What should I do?' "