Why is it that the medical profession assumes it is okay to waste our time with disdain? I can just about understand it when we go for state-funded consultation but, when it comes to private appointments paid for privately, surely we should be treated like customers.
Me: Hello, I am here for my 6:00 appointment with the doctor
Receptionist: Yes, please take a seat
Me: Thank you
Me sitting in the reception area opposite the receptionist, no one else is in sight – Nothing seems to be happening, including access to the surgery Wi-Fi where the code is helpfully made available to visitors, but unhelpfully is not working.
Me: Excuse me, is the doctor not in?
Receptionist: Yes he is. He is seeing another patient; he won’t be long, another 10 or 15 minutes
Me: So, why give me a 6:00 o’clock appointment if he is not available to see me before 6:30?
Receptionist smiles but chooses to ignore my question
More nothing happens as the receptionist and I sit silently pretending to be doing something close to nothing.
I prepare to leave
The doctor emerges and addresses me
Doctor: I am sorry I am going to be a few more minutes, is that okay?
Me: No it is not, I have other commitments
Doctor: I am really sorry, it’s an emergency
Me: I understand but when you finally see me it will take a while, yes?
Doctor: Yes, I expect it will take at least an hour
Me: I can’t be here that long; I will make another appointment
Doctor: I am really sorry
Me: So am I
I leave in a bad mood.
My phone rings and I see it is the doctor calling me. I assume he is calling to discuss the failed appointment.
I do not pick up.
Let us accept for a minute that indeed the doctor was dealing with a genuine emergency, which I do not believe, but let us suspend disbelief and say it was an emergency. The doctor was ensconced with the patient for at least 40 minutes while I was waiting and came out to tell me he needed a few more minutes which could be anything from 3 minutes to infinity, after all, it was an emergency! This so-called emergency must have come to their attention before I arrived at 17:50 and therefore it is safe to assume the receptionist was aware of that. WHY didn’t they call me to warn me of the likely delay? WHY, when I arrived, didn’t the receptionist explain that I had at least 40 minutes of wait so I could have occupied myself more productively like going off for a coffee, having my belly button pierced or my backside tattooed instead?
There is an irony here. My appointment was for an annual cardiovascular check-up and my cardiologist doctor, aided by his less than useful receptionist, in less than one hour caused me heart palpitations and significantly elevated my blood pressure.
This strange and unpleasant disregard towards patients goes back to the ancient tradition of “medicine man” being treated with reverence by the poor unfortunate sick villagers because he could make them feel better or poison them, depending on his mood swings. It is similar in other professions (police, politicians, religious leaders and celebrities), where the public shows a great deal of respect towards them and as a result they gain this sense of entitlement and reciprocate with disrespect towards their subjects. Why do we put up with it?
There is a funny scene in the classic movie Casablanca where the corrupt Chief of Police is forced to giving an exit visa to a young couple whom he felt were beneath him. The Chief reluctantly agrees to see them the following day and the enthusiastic young man promises to be at his office by 7:30, the Chief of Police replies “good, I will be there at 10:00”.
Now, does anyone know of a cardiologist who is good at keeping to time? They don’t have to be brilliant, just reasonably competent will be okay.