I’ve had a few instances now where I’ve really lost patience with healthcare staff as of late. As have other friends with their situations. It’s a growing trend that needs to be addressed. Some of these support staff are anything but.
I recently had a new diagnosis that I had suspected for a time but actually came to the forefront with physical symptoms. Increases in blood pressure, increases in startle responses, possible nightmares (I say possible because I would wake up with adrenaline & panic but not remember what I was dreaming about). Things that were not fixed with medication adjustments or other strategies.
I decided to get a screening & then I obtained a referral for a potential treatment for this diagnosis. I’m leaving the specifics out due to its own stigma & bias.
The state said I qualified for the program, so I followed the process. Part of this was seeking out a doctor from their list to get certified.
I called one of these doctors who was in the palliative care department of a local hospital but I don’t know if she ever received my message because her receptionist was extremely rude.
I communicated that I wanted to get an appointment to discuss this state program with the doctor, as well as also address some palliative care concerns I had.
The conversation went like this (edited for brevity/context):
Me: I understand this doctor’s office is on the state registered providers list for x program. I’d like to set up an appointment to discuss certification. I have x diagnosis.
Admin (terse, abrupt): You understand you might have to pay out of pocket for this since you’re a Medicare patient?
Me: Yes. Outside of that I also have some palliative care concerns I’d like to discuss with her as well.
Admin (in a very snarky tone): How do you know if you qualify for those services? Not every one does. It’s not a judgement that you or I can make. That’s up to the doctor.
Me: I’ve received services at my transplant center in the past. I would appreciate if you would relay these concerns to the doctor, so I can discuss all of this directly with her. Thank you.
Admin (still rude tone): Someone will call you back. THEN we will schedule you to discuss this with the doctor.
I suspect because this doctor’s office is located near the Cancer center of the local system she is assuming because I am not a cancer patient I do not qualify for palliative care services (which is completely untrue). I also sense she has inherent stigma and bias relative to not only my diagnosis but also to the state program. Yet this is not her job to stand in the way.
It’s been over 72 hours and no phone call. I have complained also to the hospital directly as I understand that this might be an employee of the hospital & not the doctor. The hospital has not called me back even to acknowledge the complaint or ask for more information. I have some upcoming appointments & may have another doctor in the system contact the doctor directly for me to address the other concerns I had. I tried another doctor on the list to get certified & she was wonderfully responsive. She had me seen for certification within 48 hours from when I called.
I’ve decided to take this to the state & have composed a complaint letter to send them. I am concerned that others might be blocked from the program because of such attitudes.
I’ve also within the past month had 1 surgery cancelled without my consent, & received somewhat shaming, dismissive, & rude behavior for no reason at several doctors office staff members both at my transplant hospital & locally.
Friends over the past few years have had problems getting prescriptions filled, changing medications, scheduling surgeries, or had PTSD & or panic attacks triggered by hostility at the hands of office staff. It’s a systemic issue & persistent issue. Some of these friends of mine actually work in the healthcare system too so they understand burnout, bad days, large amounts of calls, & other burdens associated with that job.
But it’s not an excuse to treat patients as punching bags or to block care.
This is not a value judgement on those that do care & do their jobs, but I think some mandatory sensitivity training, training on trauma informed care, & just general customer service skills brush up is in order.
The system also needs to reiterate that these people’s actual job is to facilitate communication & care — not hinder it.
[UPDATE: Finally the office left a voicemail for me at 1:43 this afternoon saying they reviewed my case and don’t qualify for an appointment. I disagree with this but now have additional feedback to offer the state for their list. I accept this doctor’s decision to not see me but I don’t agree, especially since I’m not sure if she has my full or complete history or consulted with any of my specialists but that’s another issue.]