I've spent time venting about doctor's offices over the past year but I honestly love all my doctors (they've taken really good care of me), so its hard to admit that in this area I think I've encountered a new low and I must share it. Some things need to be talked about so hopefully we can institute change. After all, if we never talk about problems they will surely never be solved! Here's what happened to me this week:
About a month ago I mentioned to my oncologist that I'd had some palpitations - nothing serious but I thought I should mention them. Naturally, in this "CYA" world of ours he wanted me to see a cardiologist. So I went to the local cardiologist's office in Southampton and he did an EKG and said everything "looked fine" but in light of my family history (a father who had bypass surgery)he felt he should do a complete workup and instructed the nurse to set up some appointments. They amounted to a total of 4 tests and then a follow-up visit with the doctor. While we were setting dates she said the only time they could get me in for the one test was in July, unless I wanted to have it in the Riverhead office. I decided in the interest of getting it all out of the way I'd go to Riverhead - and this week was the date.
Now, getting to Riverhead this time of year is never easy and by 1:00 in the afternoon its downright hazardous. Traffic heading west is heavy and slow. My appointment was for 2:15 and I wanted to make sure I arrived on time so I walked out of my house at 1:05, got in my car and headed away from East Hampton. I arrived at exactly 2:15.
The first thing that struck me when I walked in the door was how similar it was to the Senior Citizen's Center where I'd picked up an elderly lady last week on an ambulance call. There had to be 30 gray-haired people in the waiting room, hanging around the desk, standing in small groups and all talking LOUDLY. Now I'm no spring chicken but I had at least 20 years on all of them! Obviously this was the social event of the day for them and they were having a great time.
I signed in at the desk and the receptionist looked at my name and immediately said "Oh. Could you go around the corner and see Ann?" I walked around the corner and here is the conversation that occurred. (My unspoken thoughts are in parenthesis!)
Ann: I tried to call you - I left a message on your machine.
Me: When? I had to leave my house over an hour ago to get here.
Ann: We had to cancel your appointment - the technician had to leave on an emergency
Me: (Stay calm - emergencies happen - not her fault, etc...) Well no one called before I left home
Ann: I looked for a cell phone number to call but you don't have one on record
Me: (Now this is MY fault?) Well I don't understand what difference would have made when you can't talk on your cell phone while you were driving...
Ann: Well can you come back tomorrow at 10:30?
Me: No I can't - I'm not driving here again! (I have meetings tomorrow but I'm not telling her that)
Ann: You can't come tomorrow? (Obviously they're not used to dealing with people who have lives...)
Me: No I can't - and I'm not driving to Riverhead again - ever. I'll wait for Southampton.
This really threw her and she seemed amazed that I didn't want to waste another day on the road, fighting traffic, only to be told that it was for naught. My new appointment - in the Southampton office - is July 29th. Over a month away. If I drop dead in the meantime you'll all know why! (Only kidding - I think)
Now mind you, I've worked in offices and retail establishments for many years and always went out of my way to accommodate people, especially when it was my fault they were inconvenienced. But that does not happen at some doctor's offices! Perhaps it has something to do with being a monopoly and having a captive audience out here on the East End. Or maybe the office managers are to blame, I don't know. But there seems to be a total lack of regard for the idea of "service". If I'd been in charge in this situation I would have said "I am so sorry you made the trip for nothing. Please forgive us! Tell you what - I'm going to call the Southampton office now and see if you can go there right now and we'll figure out how to fit you in! If not today then as soon as possible. I'm really sorry about this!"
Well no such thing happened. There was no apology for ruining a perfectly beautiful day, no attempt at accommodation, and no smile at all. I was pleasant and cordial the entire time, internalizing my anger because I was taught to have manners and be a nice person, but I walked out of there fuming. And now I won't complete my battery of tests until the end of July - through no fault of my own. All I wanted in exchange was a little courtesy and a bit of sympathy. We all understand emergnecies and, although no one wants to be inconvenienced, a little kindness goes a long way in helping!
When I got home it was 4:00. There was a message on my answering machine left sometime around 1:30 that said "We have to cancel your appointment this afternoon (again - no apology) and would like you to come in tomorrow morning at 10:30."