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Good Morning Patient 6473

About a year and a half ago, I took my daughter to see a neurologist to have her toe-walking habit evaluated. We arrived at the clinic fifteen minutes early for her appointment like we were supposed to, filled out all the paperwork, and then waited. And waited. Since this was a specialist visit in a place where she had an actual appointment, I had not come prepared and after about an hour Maya started complaining of hunger. Of course, I had no snacks. After an hour and a half I went to the receptionist to inquire as to what was taking so long. "I'm so sorry. The doctor is running a bit behind today." After two hours, I asked that same receptionist, the one who hadn't had the courtesy to inform me how behind they were when I checked in, if she had anything behind her desk that my 4 year old could eat. She rustled up a fruit cup and a chocolate milk. Finally, we were seen by the doctor, who of course apologized profusely. Maya was neurologically fine.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago. Maya had a follow-up appointment with a new orthopedist. New clinic, same old toe-walking. Same old wait. Again, the receptionist said nothing. We waited an hour. This time when Maya got hungry we went downstairs to get lunch. I told the useless lady behind the desk that if by some miracle my daughter's name was called she should please tell them we would be right back. Another half hour passed. Maya ate a pretzel and played on my laptop. I asked what was happening. Surprise, surprise the doctor was "running behind". They were short a few rooms. And so on. After almost two hours, another doctor and another apology. This time, when I complained about how unacceptable it was for a clinic that serves children to have such a long wait, the orthopedist suggested I speak to his supervisor. Apparently I was not the first parent with this complaint. So I did. I am sure it will do nothing.

When we were leaving, the useless receptionist asked us if we wanted to make another appointment. I replied that yes we would but could we please see the doctor during his private hours rather than the clinic ones, which by the way are at different times in the same office! Her response: "I am sorry your insurance does not allow that." My response: "See ya!"

When I got home I wrote this email to Maya's nice, new orthopedist:

Dear Dr. _________
Thank you very much for your careful examination of my daughter Maya yesterday and your sympathy to the situation at your clinic. I did speak to the supervisor; not sure if it will make any difference to the wait times for future patients. 

The other doctor had requested that Maya return in a few months for a follow up visit, which I am sure you would also recommend. When I spoke to the receptionist, however, she said that unfortunately our insurance does not allow us to make appointments for your regular office, only the clinic, which seems silly since my understanding is that they are in the same place. Perhaps you can do something about this? 

In any case, I am aware that many things (such as long wait times and poorly managed clinics) are out of your control and I greatly appreciate the time you spent with my child.


I got an email back with this atttached message to his receptionist:

Ms. __________Can you please put Maya in for an appointment in the private hours – first patient? I know that you are away until next week and can arrange this appointment on your return. Thank  you for doing this very special appointment.
All the best.
Dr. _________

What is that saying about the squeaky wheel?

My husband and I run our own business in NYC. It will suffice to say that we do not have rich people's health insurance. When people who have our insurance need to see specialists we are sent to hospital clinics. Often the doctor in question is only there one day a week and the clinic massively overbooks. They are always behind and no one ever tells you anything. 

This past week I went to see my own specialist, also in a clinic. After many years of on and off heartburn and digestive issues, I had finally decided to see a GI  doc. I also waited two hours, completely missing my afternoon BJJ class. My actual appointment lasted 10 minutes. At the end, the doctor recommended I schedule an endoscopy. Here is what I was told:
The procedure should take about ten minutes. I should arrive at the clinic (inside a hospital of course) at 8am. Don't eat or drink anything for 8 hours prior. I should arrange for someone to pick me up when it was over in case I felt a little drowsy. I asked what time was reasonable to tell them to meet me. "Allow 4 hours."

WTF??! Four hours for a ten minute procedure? When I inquired about this, I was told that I would have to fill out paperwork. Then there was the meeting with the anesthesiologist. Oh and "there will be a wait."

Of course there will.

I had had enough. I went home, Googled endoscopy centers in Manhattan and found a nice GI doc who takes my insurance affiliated with a center (not a hospital) that was especially for stomach procedures. Their website had downloadable forms. When I asked what time someone should arrive to get me, the answer was about an hour after my appointment time. One hour.

The moral of this story is that we do not have to accept what we are given when it comes to our medical care, and that of our children. We can, and must, be advocates for our own care. We can demand to be treated like human beings, not cattle in a very crowded field of grass. We do not have to go to the first place they send us, accept the first diagnosis we are given, wait for hours and hours to see rushed doctors in clinics teeming with misery. Even those of us with "poor people's insurance" do not necessarily have to settle. All it takes is a little effort, a lot of research and a very big mouth. Thankfully I have one.

My daughter has a wonderful pediatrician who I have never waited more than twenty minutes to see. I have a decent PCP whose office is also fairly empty. But from now on when Maya has to see a specialist I plan to go right up to the desk and ask exactly how far behind they are running. That way, at least we can go have ice cream, or run around the playground for an hour. We'll come back later. Or even better, maybe you could call us when she is next. You know, like those pagers at the Olive Garden. Here is my cell number, we'll be in Prospect Park.

My time is far more valuable than this. Oh and by the way, so is the time of all the other patients in your office, the ones who do not have the courage or the knowledge to speak up. Imagine what health care would be like if the human beings in that Brooklyn clinic were treated with the same respect as the ones on Park Avenue.

Why don't you work on that Mr. President!


  1. So true.

    Speaking up to God/Doctor and God/Doctor's Receptionist is a wise thing to do. Too bad it takes (for normal people) tolerating so much crap before one is able to make that decision not to take that kind of treatment any more.

    Goof for you that you did. Some never do. I won't even get into the incompetent doctors and their bad treatment/advice, once you actually get in to see them. That's a whole 'nother ball of wax (or somethin')!


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