BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
I had another run-in with American medical institutional arrogance on June 7, so it’s time to start applying counter-pressure.
No doubt you’ve encountered the assessments that doctors suffer from a god-complex. Well, that affliction also seems to infect how their offices operate, too. Enough, I say. Time to cut them down to size! And, this holds true independently of the fact that doctors and their staff are also the objects of much abuse from various quarters.
Here’s the long story, but bear with me, as it sets the stage for understanding my indignation. As of late 2007, I was informed I had to see a certain type of doctor every six months to be checked. My medical coverage is through an HMO. They assigned me to a clinic that has many specialists in-house along with their general practitioners (who act as gate-keepers to further treatment). In this case, the specialist required was not available in-house, so the clinic sent me to a doctor with whom they contract for services. I was there in January, 2008 and again that summer. At the second visit, I was informed it would be my last since they weren’t working with my clinic any longer.
As a result of that and my 2009 run for city council, the every-six-months checkups fell by the wayside. Finally, after much contention in late 2010, I returned to the same specialist mentioned above (with whom my clinic had evidently reconnected). The contention was because that doctor’s office was quite inconvenient, given LA area traffic, and I asked they send me to someone closer to where I lived. But the clinic refused to budge. The first visit was in January 2011. I was prescribed a medication and told to return in a month. I did, in early March, and the doctor said to continue using the medication and issued a new prescription. Again, I was to return in a month, i.e. sometime in April. Days before that appointment, I got a call saying it was cancelled because my clinic hadn’t paid the doctor. Then, the day before the cancelled appointment, I got another call saying it was un-cancelled. I couldn’t make it and ended up rescheduling for May.
Meanwhile, I asked the doctor’s office staff to call in a refill for the medication I was supposed to continue using until my visit, and let me know when that arrangement was made. I heard nothing until a few days before my appointment when they made their reminder call (at which point I postponed the appointment by several days). I asked what had happened about my prescription, and was told it had two refills left and should go pick it up from the pharmacy. I had not noticed the refills since I was under the erroneous understanding that this stuff was only issued a month at a time. Also, the doctor’s staffer said it had been taken care of over a week before. I chided by chiding them for not informing me that the prescription was waiting for me. Was I to read minds? Call the doctor’s office or pharmacy repeatedly to find out what the status was of the prescription? What happened to the simple common sense courtesy of letting a patient know a prescription is ready?
I got the medication and started using it again. This brings us to June 7. I made arrangements to leave work early and go to the doctor. On the way, I encountered unusual traffic. My appointment was at 5:30. At 5:29, I tried calling the doctor’s office with what turned out to be the wrong number. By the time I got the correct one, it was 5:37. I called and explained the situation, forecast arriving in eight or nine minutes. I was asked to hold, 5:39. Two minutes later, the response? “The doctor doesn’t wait more than 15 minutes after the appointment time”. I was incensed! I asked to speak to the doctor. He couldn’t because he was still with a patient! I asked for him to call me when he was done, and I was told, “The doctor doesn’t talk to people over the phone, that’s why you make appointments”.
I arrived, did the requisite paperwork, and still waited a few minutes before I was seen. Initially, a non-doctor spoke to me to get basic info. It was at this point that I was informed (once again) that this would be my last session with them because they had definitively severed their ties with my clinic. As I had with the receptionist, I conveyed my dissatisfaction with the treatment I’d received over the preceding half hour. When the doctor entered, I conveyed the necessary dissatisfaction again.
The whole time with the doctor lasted under ten minutes. No waiting was involved on their end. Yet, EVERY time I’ve been in that office, I’ve had to wait. In fact, I have NEVER been seen on time by any medical professional regardless of how early or late I arrive. Despite all this, evidently, this doctor would’ve been unwilling to wait five minutes when I was the last appointment of the day and would not have thrown off their other patients’ appointments. So in their eyes, my (our) time is worthless, and theirs, priceless. What arrogance!
This has nothing to do with anything except simple decency. If you get this kind of mistreatment, let the medicos know. Complain loudly. I say this because I’m sure many in our community, being new to the U.S., are too timid to stand up for their dignity. That’s unacceptable. Armenians have gone through too much to tolerate the abusive behavior of anyone, even doctors and their co-workers.