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The Wannabe Mayor And His Spokesperson, Unmasked

, , , , , | Healthy | August 14, 2021

A male patient and his girlfriend, both middle-aged, come into our clinic to check in for an appointment. The man says he is a new patient, so we have him fill out paperwork while he waits for his appointment. When they came in, they were not wearing masks. Even though restrictions in our state have loosened for masks, individual businesses still have a right to require masks upon entry. Regardless of the current restrictions or vaccination status, a health clinic that serves people sick with a number of contagious diseases would be a good place to wear a mask — or so you would think.

As the front desk receptionist, it is my job to inform people that we still require masks. To make these conversations more polite, I usually phrase it a different way.

Me: “Do you guys have masks with you, or do you need one?”

We have disposable masks available at the front door.

The girlfriend simply says, “No,” but neither of them makes a move to grab a mask when I point out our available stash. This is where I should insist, but I’m a shy twenty-one-year-old female and there are no other patients in the lobby, so I don’t push it. I figure the nurses will take care of it, and oh, boy, do they.

The provider that they are here to see is the sort that will take no substance from the cow’s behind. She is a great nurse practitioner that has been in the field for upwards of a decade. Her LPN (licensed practical nurse) — the one that brings patients back to rooms and gets them started — is equally so.

The LPN comes out and calls the man’s name. Both he and his girlfriend start to get up. 

LPN: “Do you guys have masks?”

Girlfriend: “No.”

The LPN grabs two from the box at the front door and extends them to the man and his girlfriend.

LPN: “You’ll have to wear one for the appointment.”

At this, they explode. 

Girlfriend: “Oh, no. We were told when we scheduled the appointment that masks were highly encouraged but not required. [Patient] won’t wear one.”

LPN: “Well, I can ask the provider if she would be okay with a face shield, but he’ll have to wear something.”

At no point in this conversation does the man, the actual patient, say anything. He just starts angrily pacing and indicating that he is leaving. After a few minutes, he does actually just walk out, leaving his girlfriend to fight his battle.

Girlfriend: “Whoever I talked to, that was the first question I asked: do we need to wear masks? I wouldn’t have scheduled the appointment if they were required. I was assured that they were not.”

Me: “Hm, that’s strange. Do you remember who you talked to? I will have to update them on our policy so they have the correct information.”

At this, the girlfriend sputters.

Girlfriend: “Well, I don’t remember who it was, but it wasn’t the person who scheduled us. It was a different person.”

I look to see who scheduled her appointment. It was someone in the billing department, which is strange because they don’t usually schedule appointments. I find out later that there was an issue with one of the regular schedulers and that the call was transferred incorrectly. No big deal.

The LPN goes to get the head nurse, which is the closest thing to a manager at our clinic. [Head Nurse] confirms the policy and reiterates that we can check with the provider, but that he will have to wear something during the appointment or he will not be seen. [Head Nurse] confirms with the provider that she will not see him without a mask. I believe her exact words are along the lines of, “He needs to put on his big boy pants and get over it. It’s a piece of cloth.”

The girlfriend just gets angrier.

Girlfriend: “You’re really not going to see him over this? Well, that sucks, because he hasn’t been to the doctor in over thirty years and he has diabetes. He’s going to lose his leg. He really needed this appointment.”

During her rant, I’m thinking to myself, “If he really needs this appointment, you would think he would suck it up and just wear the mask.”

Girlfriend: “When I scheduled the appointment, I told them he had two requirements. First, he wasn’t going to wear a mask. We were told that was fine. Second, he wasn’t going to let the doctor do certain tests. He didn’t want to be touched. He didn’t want a physical. He just wanted to be seen for diabetes.”

That would also be a problem because, as previously mentioned, the provider would not let that fly.

I’m still trying to remain as polite as possible.

Me: “I’m sorry, but that is our policy. I know it’s frustrating to be given wrong information, and I’ll try to make sure everyone in our clinic is aware of our policies when scheduling appointments in the future.”

After repeating what she had already said a couple more times, she left. I canceled the man’s appointment and put a BIG note in his chart about his unwillingness to wear a mask and about our current policy, just in case he tries to schedule again.

Here’s the kicker: I decided to Google this guy. He’s not technically a patient with us, so there’s no HIPAA violation. I started to type in his name, and wouldn’t ya know it, it auto-populated his last name followed by the city and state. Great, so this guy is someone important or had at least been in the news.

Well, it turns out that this guy ran for mayor a couple of years back. He was actually defeated by his opponent, which just so happened to be the son-in-law of one of the clinic’s providers. When I told the provider this, her reaction was priceless. “It’s THAT guy?!” Everyone in town was familiar with him and knew him as the resident a**hole.

I looked at his mayoral campaign site, and one of his talking points was concerning community health. Interesting. There was a blurb in there about needing to “listen to your body.” Very interesting, considering this guy apparently hasn’t been to the doctor in thirty years.

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