Thursday, March 09, 2006

She wouldn't have gotten in at my hospital in 7 hours

I posted a comment on Kevin MD about practicing defensive medicine and included a link to this blog. In case I had any doubts about the existence of arrogant doctors who don't care how long patients wait, I got this is response:

OMG, you're right! Tuteur's entire Blog rails against ER's. She wouldn't even have gotten in from the waiting room at my hospital in the 7 hours it took for her sons' care to be screwed up in her story ...
I don't get it. The writer (presumably a doctor) is so sure that this is acceptable that he is practically crowing about it.

For the record, I am very proud of being a doctor, and very proud of the scientific advances of our profession that have saved countless lives. I am quite sure, though, that none of our skill and sacrifice justifies treating patients arrogantly. Our job does not begin and end with treating a medical problem successfully. It matters how long people have to wait to see us. It really matters and we should be aware of it. That doesn't mean that we will always be able to see patients in a timely manner, but it does mean that we shouldn't believe that we can take as long as we damn well please and if they don't like it, they can go elsewhere.

Anyone who has ever been a patient knows this, but many doctors have not yet been patients. So for them, I have a suggestion:

The next time you are in the ER, head out to the waiting room and pick out a patient who looks like it could be you; not someone who came in for a frivolous reason, but someone who came in for a problem that can only be dealt with in the ER, maybe a bowel obstruction from end stage ovarian cancer, for example, or a patient dehydrated from being unable to tolerate chemo. Glance at the chart to find out when the patient came in and every so often check the chart to find out how long the patient ultimately waits for care. Then ask yourself, if there is a good medical reason that the patient has waited so long. Would you, as a physician, deem such a wait to be reasonable if that suffering patient was you or your spouse? I bet you'll be surprised at what you find.

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