A dangerous post, but a few pertinent issues which have been bothering me for a while!
I called her into my consulting room, thinking to myself “this is great, I’m doing well for time today, only 15-20 minutes late and it’s nearly the end of the workday!” She, however, did not meet my smile with a smile and in fact appeared to be quite upset and agitated. It was so obvious that she wanted me to ask “is something troubling you?” She let out a long discontented sigh and said “I was told I was next…and I’ve been waiting 20 minutes!” My first reaction was to be flabbergasted. I wanted and to say quizzically “and….?” I bit my tongue and said “you were indeed next; I am sorry you felt that the wait was unreasonable”.
I felt that this was one way to “get off on the wrong foot”, as our views were quite opposite in defining what was a reasonable wait for the doctor. I wonder what others think is reasonable in this circumstance? I recall waiting patiently for at least an hour every time we went to see my local GP, and this was not for a bulk billed appointment either. It was just the way it was, and we appreciated the care that they gave us.
In the outer suburbs of Melbourne I had a middle-aged lady as a patient, whose opening line to me, before she even sat on the chair, was “I hate doctors!” What a negative way to start! I know that dentists have had to deal with these negative attitudes for years, due to the generalised fear of dentistry which is rife in the community, but this was a new experience for me. I actually think I let out a small laugh because I was so taken by surprise at this statement!
If these two examples aren’t behaviourally poor enough, I might let you know about a patient’s partner who called me profanities at the top of her lungs in a public hospital when I was explaining politely why I would not increase a particular addictive medication. This sort of behaviour only makes it less likely that people, especially the doctor, will bend over backwards to help you. It wasn’t only unpleasant for all who were there but it was terrible behaviour which I am sad to say, seems to be becoming more and more prevalent in our communities.
On top of the above behavioural faux pas, it is common for me to hear “oh and will you bulk bill me today?” after a detailed appointment where multiple issues were dealt with, and it was clear the patient has paid $150 for their hair to be cut and coloured at least every 6-8 weeks. Can they not afford the $20-$30 gap? Do they completely devalue my service to them as a doctor? Do they put such a low value on their healthcare? Or do they not even think of these things and assume that all healthcare should be free? I sometimes feel guilty sending through the Medicare item number for billing by reception staff, but then I remind myself of the years of training that I have completed and the good service I pride myself in delivering, and I know that I shouldn’t be selling myself short. Patients who attend our clinic are advised of our fees upfront, so there should be no surprises when they get to the front desk to settle their account. There are patients who are routinely bulk billed in most clinics, such as children under 16, and others whom GPs might choose to bulk bill, for example, those who have returned for a review or results, but I don’t believe that this should be an expectation.
Thankfully, most patients I see are very reasonable and happy with the care they are provided; it is these people who make being a GP worthwhile at the end of the day.