Over the course of my 32 years, I've had a range of experiences with doctors. There was the primary care doc that had two-hour plus average wait times (oy!)...the ob that promoted her jewelry-making side business...the dentist with the really old magazines in the waiting room (Reader's Digest from 1989, anyone?) I've never had a heated discussion...okay, BLOWOUT...with a doctor until this past Tuesday.
Over the past several years, I noticed that my knees were getting weak. They would make weird sounds when I went up and down stairs and occasionally give out. I figured it was just normal wear and tear due to my getting older. Years of high heel wearing didn't help either, I guess!
Anyways, my knees began to feel even more rickety throughout my pregnancy. I figured the extra weight I was carrying caused this increased sensation and that postprego, I'd be just fine (knee-wise, that is...let's not even talk about how I still feel pain from my C-section). About three weeks ago, I decided that stroller walks and doing my "Walk Away the Pounds" DVD just weren't enough. I needed to lose those remaining baby pounds and fit back into my old gear.
So, I climbed onto my elliptical and did a brisk 20-minute, high-incline session. I felt refreshed and healthy until a couple days later. My left knee was in severe pain and I could barely go up/down stairs in my three-level home. This is a huge problem because I am taking care of an infant and needed full mobility.
At the beginning of the year, I switched from a PPO to an HMO, so I needed to see my PCP (I thought I wouldn't have to hear so many acronyms while on leave from work!) in order to obtain a referral to visit an orthopedic doctor. I wasn't new to this referral business. My baby's pediatrician had written one for us a couple months ago in order to take the little one to an oral surgeon for his frenulum issue.
I chose a board-certified PCP and made an appointment to get the referral and also to find out more about the whooping cough vaccine — I've been seeing a lot of ads in the various parenting magazines I receive. Apparently new parents and caretakers should get this vaccine and I wanted to discuss with my doctor. Who knew how complicated these two to dos would be for my doc?!
On almost EVERY PAGE of the new patient paperwork, I indicated that I needed an orthopedic referral and more info regarding the whooping cough vaccine. I also restated what I needed to one of the two office assistants when she walked me to the examination room. She — let's call her Nurse Betty — proceeded to tell me that she used to suffer from knee pain as well and highly recommended the Trenton Orthopedic Group (TOG), conveniently located in the same plaza as my PCP, now known as Dr. Evil.
During my examination, I told the doctor at least three times that I needed a referral. He gave me a piece of paper that listed several doctors from different specialties. The checkbox next to the TOG was filled — I was to go there for x-rays and a consultation. I mentioned the whooping cough vaccine and before I could finish, Dr. Evil interrupts me and says, "well, I'm going to ask my RN about that. I don't know much about that female stuff." WOW. "Female stuff"?!?! Umm, it's a whooping cough, not vaginal cough, vaccine. Even if my inquiry was related to "female stuff" he should have been a professional and told me he didn't know, but would find out for me.
And did I tell you that Dr. Evil also took a personal call on his cell phone during our conversation? Yes, he did. He didn't even try to pretend it was an emergency. Something about dinner plans. Sorry I'm boring you, sheesh. I've never had that happen to me before. I mean, my dumb, yet polite, ass even puts MY mobile phone on silent during doctor appointments. I only expect the same treatment in return. At the end of our consultation, Dr. Evil sent me off to see the "girls" at the front (grown-ass women, mind you). I felt a little put off, but decided that my knee was more important than fighting a battle.
Before leaving, I double-checked with the "girls" at the front desk. Nurse Betty's counterpart, Nurse Bertha we'll call her, assured me that I had everything I needed in terms of referral. Nurse Betty even chimed in with who she thought were the better doctors at TOG. I thought it was strange that I did not receive a formal referral slip (looks like a test answer sheet; the doctor has to fill in blank boxes and assign a referral number), but they told me I was all set.
I made an appointment for the following week. Had dear husby come home early to watch the little one so I could go to TOG. After arriving at TOG, I was told I did not have the appropriate paperwork. The paper I had was only referring me to TOG and did not serve as an true referral. Therefore, my appointment was no longer valid. I was heated! I called Dr. Evil's office and began to tell them the situation. Nurse Betty immediately jumped down my throat and said I didn't tell them I needed one! Wtf! I hung up and decided I would walk over there and settle this matter in person.
When I arrived at Dr. Evil's office, Nurse Betty was already giving me a stank look. She told me that I never indicated that I needed a referral. WHAT???????????????????????????? How is this possible when I wrote it and said it several times! She also told me that I don't understand how referrals work and need to learn how my HMO works. Ummmm yea, okay. I'm not retarded...far from it. How hard is it to understand HMO and referrals? Need to see a doc that's not your PCP? Get a referral. Then see speciality doc. Simple, right? Wrong! Apparently at Dr. Evil's, the policy (which was NEVER communicated to me verbally or in print) is that I have to make the appointment with the specialist first, then call back Dr. Evil's office. Then Dr. Evil's office writes up the referral, then I pick up the referral and bring to specialist. Now, that sounds like a big clusterfuck.
When my baby's pediatrician wrote the referral, he did it during our visit and we left with the referral in hand. No need to call him to follow up. Guess he doesn't do it the right way, huh?
Nurse Betty was telling me that I misunderstood and was not clear in telling them. I told them that I had told EVERYONE I needed a referral. Even wrote it in my new patient paperwork (which she refused to pull up). She interrupted me and said "telling the doctor is not telling me; I'm the one that does the referrals"....so lemme get this straight, when I told her, Nurse Bertha, Dr. Evil and wrote it in my new patient paperwork, that doesn't count?? How could I never had mentioned it when Nurse Betty herself was providing feedback on the TOG?
I told her that I had a newborn and husband at home. I wasn't leaving without an appointment at TOG. I also asked for an apology. She refused and replied rudely, "well consider my apology trying to get you an appointment at TOG." HONEY, I HAD AN APPOINTMENT AT TOG. YA'LL FUCKED IT UP AND WON'T ADMIT IT. I told her I was the patient and did not deserve to be treated like this. She rolled her eyes and picked up the phone to call TOG. While on the phone with TOG, she mentioned, there was a "misunderstanding"...I heard this and was livid. There was no mix up, I was not given the proper information! I chimed in from the waiting area, "no, there's no misunderstanding, your office didn't give me the correct information!" She huffed and corrected her, "sorry, we made a mistake. Please find an appointment for this patient."
The entire time she was on the phone she was talking trash about the TOG staff (who were utmost professionals not like Dr. Evil and his ass clowns) to Nurse Bertha, the mute assistant who had assured me the week before I was good to go.
I finally got my appointment back and hobbled back to TOG. Now, I ask you, is that how it has to be? Why do some people insist on making simple situations difficult? In her recent post, my friend Dori bemoaned the lack of doctors that care. I agree and go as far as to say, fuck doctors who care. Let's just try to have doctors who are competent and can at least handle the administrative portion of their duties correctly! Is that so much to ask? And I'm also asking for accountability when things do go wrong. I'm human, I make mistake. The difference is, I ADMIT to them instead of blaming an innocent person, which is what Dr. Evil and his staff did.
Follow up: My orthopedic doc give me a script to see a physical therapist. I have a feeling I still need a referral from the dreaded Dr. Evil's office. Let's hope it can be done without insults and lies this time! By the way, Dr. Evil is Dr. Bernard Kelberg of Hamilton, New Jersey. The names of the guilty shall NOT be protected.