Doctoring Health Care Reform inflammation

Friday’s reflections: If I were the surgical secretary…

December is always a busy time in the surgical waiting room.  It’s all about the deductibles. An ice storm only made matters worse.  Nerves were frayed.

It was at the busy reception desk where I witnessed an irate family member of a post-op patient accost the friendly secretary.  The patient was waiting in the recovery room for an in-patient bed to open up, and in the opinion of the patient’s family, the wait was too long.   The young secretary calmly explained that the hospital was full and a room was being prepared.

Then it came: a colossal downpour of incivility and meanness. It was breath-taking, really. And as a cardiologist, and a Connecticut native, I know rudeness when I see it.

After the storm had passed, I asked the young gal, “What’s up with that?”

“Dr Mandrola, people are so stressed…we get that all the time.”

It’s a good thing for our hospital that I don’t sit in the surgery waiting desk. Confrontations like this one would surely get handled differently.  For instance,

I might have started nicely enough…

Sorry, Ma’am, we are doing our best, but the hospital is full for a reason. It’s because people want to come here; and, for now, they still have a choice. People choose our hospital for many reasons: things like an award-winning nursing staff (with a very low-turnover and few agency nurses), a dedicated management team that fosters a good culture, and, of course, we have great doctors.  

 Ma’am, this is good isn’t it? Aren’t you glad you are here?

But if she persisted in her verbal abuse, I would counter…

Ma’am, we would love to expand our facility, but our state government feels that there should be a certificate of need for expanding in-patient facilities. The way they see it, all hospitals are the same–interchangeable even. And since the hospital across the street, or the one downtown has empty beds, they say there is enough available healthcare facilities in this area. 

And if it continued, I would try this…

Ma’am, you know that kind of anger is really bad for your heart. It inflames your blood vessel walls and enhances the stickiness of your platelets. That’s a combination that could land you in the cath lab. Moreover, since your spouse is waiting for a non-ICU bed, he likely did well with surgery. There’s this medical blog I’ve been reading that touts the heart-healthy benefits of thinking positively. You might check it out. And…have you taken your BP medicine today? 

Finally, if all this failed, I would sternly say…

Ma’am, the hospital is not a resort or Starbucks. Your spouse did well. He has a good doctor and a good nurse.  He will get moved when his bed is ready.

Surely, the new healthcare reforms will reduce the likelihood of such hostilities.  Government regulation always makes things more efficient.