Sincere Thoughts on Being a Mom · Stories about Emmie · Tree Nut Allergies

Worthy Fight?

Years ago when I worked at a radiology office behind the front desk, a pregnant patient pointed her finger at me and threatened to get me fired.  In between breaths into a paper bag, I summoned up the courage to call my supervisor to explain.  I was barely 19 years old and shaking like an abused puppy.  Surely I would be walking out the door with my pink slip that afternoon.

What was the cause of such a threat?  I gave the wrong instructions for how she should prep (she needed to fast instead of drink a lot of water for a different kind of sonogram…oops) when she called to make an appointment.  It was an easy mistake and an error that I apologized for and learned from.  I didn’t lose my job over it, of course.  My supervisor was more than understanding and the patient was out of line, yet I remember how fearful I was.

My experience working in that kind of environment, with a plethora of angry patients who walked through the door, gave me a thicker skin and a diplomatic skill set.  When I became the supervisor, I learned how to diffuse situations with carefully selected phrases, eased feelings with apologies, and presented scenarios that met somewhere in the middle of pleasing the patient and protecting the employee.

We’re talking clerical stuff here.  You know, following office procedure to ensure safety, efficiency, liability, professionalism, and confidentiality.

I was WELL familiarized with the term office procedure. But when it was appropriate, I was also familiar with the term professional courtesy and just being a nice person.

Which is why my hot button was pushed today when I went into Mini’s pediatrician’s office – ex-pediatrician’s office – to pick up her medical records. We had been patients for 9 years but were leaving over a big issue.  After calling the main pediatrician (and not getting a response) and writing a letter to him (and not getting a response), I followed up with a call to see if the records were copied and waiting for me to be picked up.

No, they weren’t.  Yes, the doctor read my letter.  But no, I had to come in and sign a release form.  And the cost would be $10.80.

I said I would like for that fee to be waived, given the circumstances of why I was leaving.  I strongly believe they didn’t take Mini’s allergic reaction seriously enough, starting with the person who answered the phone that day.  When I called to talk about it, the office manager not only didn’t apologize, but she dwarfed my concerns to cover their actions (among other things).  So I wrote a well-written letter, asking for a response, and requested copies of Mini’s records.

The nurse who relayed the message called me back about a minute later once she talked to the doctor (who was probably sitting right there, it’s a very small office and it was at the end of the day).  He told her to tell me it’s office procedure to pay the fee.  Yet he wouldn’t come after me if I didn’t pay it.

Um, what?

That’s not a carefully selected phrase.

Without going into more details, the bottom line is that the doctor will not waive the fee because that is an admission of wrongdoing.  He must have wanted her to clarify that because she called back.

I saw where this was going and I assured her that I did not have a litigious motive here.  I just wanted an act of kindness – professional courtesy – given for 9 years of being their patient.  Is that too much to ask?  Can’t they just give me 17 pages of copies without charging me?

I almost gave in and just paid the ridiculous ten bucks.

But today when I picked up the records three women on his staff were sitting behind the front desk.  They knew exactly who I was and why I was there.  One asked me for my payment and I explained why I was not going to pay.

She said I had to pay or they wouldn’t give them to me.  Clearly she knew about the letter and about my phone calls yesterday.  I got an earful of office procedure.

It made me so mad.  I did not feel respected or valued whatsoever.  I took a deep breath, carefully selected my phrases, and gave them a piece of my mind.

I left with the records in hand.

It turns out my skin isn’t so thick on the patient’s side of the front desk, though.

I cried before I even pulled out of the parking lot.

And now they’re sending me a bill.

What would you do?  Would you pay it?

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14 thoughts on “Worthy Fight?

  1. I would send them a bill instead for the other doctor you saw after that and the allergy testing or even just the allergy dr’s consult fee. State clearly you would like it waived as a professional courtesy. If needed you could also call a local news station and talk to their consumer advocate about it. Ultimately though if they did send it to collections I would go in and pay it in pesos.

  2. Absolutely NOT! Stick the course and stand that ground. You go Anna! Not in this lifetime nor the next will they ever see that 10.80… That’s the problem with so many fields today — professionalism is gone. We love you and support you.

  3. DO NOT PAY IT. My supervisor would fall over dead before she treated a patient (and a LOYAL patient for 9 years, at that!) the way you have been treated. I am so sorry you have had to put up with such a headache. Stand your ground. Spend the 10 bucks on ice cream for Max and Mini!

  4. As unfair as it is, you will most likely end up paying it. If you don’t pay the doctors office, it WILL go to collections and ruin your credit.

    The best “revenge” is to make sure you tell everyone you know and have all of them tell everyone they know NOT to use that doctor. Surely that will cost a lot more than 10.80.

    1. I don’t know why, but I’ve been careful to protect his reputation…I knew him semi-personally (he was the brother of my former boss of 6 years). In fact, I went out of my way to write and say out loud on all occasions that he has helped me in many ways over the years. I guess that adds to why I feel his Procedure/Policy is so ridiculous in this case. He doesn’t care.

  5. UGH. I would feel really torn and try to decide what GOD would want me to do — I think I’d want to handle the situation (on my end) for the good of all and then leave it behind me knowing I ultimately did the RIGHT thing, regardless of how others behaved. Pray?

  6. I feel like I’ve done the right thing up until this point. I’ve tried to keep this in balance and be prayerful about it. I’m definitely the type to let things go and be done with it, but in this case a fuss needed to be raised. About the $10, though? I still don’t know. It’s only $10, but If one more letter is what it takes to put a question mark in someone’s mind about this, then I’ll do it.

  7. I am strickly talking about me here, but personally, I know I would pay it because the Holy Spirit would not leave me alone about it. No matter how wrong the doctor’s office is, I would still feel an obligation to pay for services rendered…in this case, the service of copying the medical records. The fact that they messed up does not change the fact that I owe them money.

  8. I would not pay it. You have done the hard face-to-face stuff and I don’t think they will bother sending $10.80 to collections, esp if the doctor said he “wouldn’t come after you.” I agree that it is probably similar to when your car insurance company tells you to never say you are sorry for an accident even if you are, because it is an admission of guilt.

    There might be a time down the road where it would be prudent to pay the small fee just for it to be OVER, but I wouldn’t yet and see what they do with it.

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