When Patients Need Patience

, , , , , , , , | Healthy | July 8, 2018

(I am in the waiting room of an OBGYN office I’ve never been to before. It is the only one in the area that is in my HMO insurance network. It’s late morning; appointments are not meant to be longer than 20 minutes, so I am planning to attend classes afterwards. When I walk in, I’m told that there is an extremely long wait time, even though we all have timed appointments — and are actually meant to be seen at that time. Though every hospital and office in this entire HMO company has a policy that if a patient checks in more than 15 minutes late they lose their appointment, obviously no equal rules have ever applied to providers being penalized for lateness. I have waited an hour already. Another patient, who is waiting for the same doctor, is sitting next to me with her newborn baby.)

Patient: “Oh, yeah. It’s aaaaalways been this way in this office for as long as I’ve been coming here. They’re aaaaalways extremely behind schedule.”

(This is not reassuring; since she’s got a baby, one can assume she’s been a patient with frequent appointments here for at least nine months.)

Patient: “Yeah, that’s why I’ve always made sure to get the very first appointment super-early in the morning. That’s absolutely the only way to get out of here on time. I just couldn’t manage it today. Oh, but don’t worry; I’ll be super-quick with my appointment, only five minutes. So you all won’t have to wait too much longer!”

(It’s nice of her, but we’re all already extremely late, anyway. I’m pretty appalled that a woman with a newborn is being made to wait around like this for well over an hour; luckily, her baby keeps on sleeping. I also wonder, if this office always runs severely late, why don’t they at least warn patients when we make our appointments? Many patients go up to ask the nurses several times what is going on with the excessive wait time. From overhearing them, it becomes clear that at least half a dozen of them are waiting for the same doctor I am, who appears to be the main cause of waiting-room congestion. The nurses seem extremely practiced at politely fobbing us off while giving non-answers about why this is happening or how much longer it’ll be, as well as pretending to be helpless and confused themselves, while giving off the heavy impression that this is actually all “business as usual.” I’m extremely unhappy; there is no end to the wait in sight, and it’s clear I’ll miss my classes. In other circumstances I’d just leave, but I am there because of suspicion of a uterine tumor and absolutely need to have tests done. Most people resign themselves to waiting, except for one young woman, who checked in 20 minutes after me, and keeps on whining to the nurses over and over. After waiting less than an hour, she starts going towards the exit door in showy slow-motion, while she declares extra loudly to the entire room that she’s leaving since she must get back to her job. I feel extremely skeptical of this, as she is dressed very unprofessionally, even by the standards of the most casual minimum-wage job, and has multiple large, prominent facial piercings.)

Nurse: “Oh, no! No, Ms. [Whiny Patient], don’t leave!”

Whiny Patient: “Oh, I absolutely have to get back to work! There’s no way I can stay here any longer!”

Nurse: “If you wait just a moment, I’ll go right away to ask the doctor if she can accommodate you sooner! Just wait right here!”

(The nurse goes inside the medical office, and comes back within two minutes to call the whiny patient in to be seen by the doctor immediately. I am shocked, as I know this girl was in line behind me, and there’s still at least one other person in front of me, as well. I go up to the nurses again.)

Me: “Excuse me, but I believe that young woman who just went in is seeing the same doctor as me, and several other people here.”

Nurse: “Well, yes, she is in with [Doctor].”

Me: “Did you really just call her in ahead of all of us, including those that were here first?!”

Nurse: “Well, yes. You see, she is in a very great hurry to get back to work. So we just had to see her now. [Doctor] did her a favor and managed to squeeze her in sooner.” *without appearing to realize the actual obvious meaning of that sentence*

Me: “Oh, my God, really?! [Doctor] did her a favor and squeezed her in?! What you’re actually saying is you talked Dr. [Doctor] into seeing her sooner, at all of the rest of our expense, without even consulting us! Neither [Doctor] nor any of you lost anything by doing this! You all just chose to steal several other people’s time for your own convenience of not having to explain the reason behind the patient’s appointment cancellation after she’d already showed up and paid for it! Wow, I wish I’d thought of getting up, whining a lot, and loudly threatening to leave; apparently it would have gotten me seen a lot sooner, too!”

(Even besides me, there were very good odds that some of the other patients also had to get to work — no one was even asked. But we all acted like adults and dealt with it instead of making a loud fuss to skip ahead of others in line. The nurse and doctor just decided that since we didn’t throw up a fuss, it automatically meant our time was worthless compared to [Whiny Patient]’s, and could be taken away from us with no notice. [Whiny Patient]’s appointment was not quick in the least. By the time she left, and then they finished with the other patient ahead of me, I was called in a whopping hour and 42 minutes later than my scheduled appointment time. While [Doctor] seemed likable and competent in person — once I finally got to see her — I couldn’t help questioning both her character and her competency in my head through the entire appointment because of the unprofessional mess with the waiting room.  After leaving there, since they’d already ensured I would fully miss all my classes that day, I went straight up a couple of floors in the hospital, to the Member Services department– where they saw me very promptly, even with no appointment — and submitted a complaint face-to-face with a nice, attentive employee who typed up everything I told him. I made sure to tell him every detail, including the 1:40 wait time and the long-time patient who told me that the OBGYN office always operates this way. It’s been several years, and I have never gone back to that office.)

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