Sunday, April 13, 2014

Time (Wasted & Otherwise)

She's 80. Her husband is 89. He travels slowly these days. That's because he uses either a cane or a walker, depending upon the situation. She, not as encumbered, does a lot of waiting for him. She's OK with that. They're in love and there isn't a doubt in the world that he'd do the same if the situation was reversed. The other day, they traveled to the Veterans Administration Hospital in Jamaica Plain. The husband, Bill - a Bronze Star World War II vet - was having a procedure done on his eye. His appointment was at 10:30.

They live on the South Shore. Bill, with infirmities of leg and eye, isn't able to drive himself these days. There isn't any easy public transportation option. Bill's daughter sometimes does the driving; other times, Connie - Bill's wife - handles it. It's a somewhat long drive, through both expressway and city traffic. She doesn't enjoy the drive, but she does what's needed. As I say, they're in love.

Connie is my mom. Bill is my stepfather. Since I was otherwise unengaged, I volunteered to take the driving off of my mother's hands. I used to drive cab in Boston. City driving doesn't bother me.

We arrived on-schedule, but then we waited. Apparently, this is standard procedure. Get there when they tell you, then park it in a waiting room. When they call your name, travel to another waiting room down the hall. Wait there until you're called again.

Around noon, Bill was seen by a doctor. After that, we went back to the second waiting room. We sat until another doctor came and took care of Bill. Then we drove back to the South Shore. I'd estimate time spent with medical personnel at 45 minutes, tops; maybe an additional 15 minutes doing paperwork, so call it a productive hour. With his walker, Bill travels slowly. I'll be generous and say it took him a half-hour overall to get from place to place. Waiting time? At least two hours. We didn't hit the road again until 2:00pm.

Let me be clear. The people at the VA were great. Everybody had a smile and a kind word. The doctors were patient, answered questions thoroughly, and appeared to be doing everything in their power to keep it moving expeditiously. Other staff members were cheerful and accommodating. So, nothing personal, but why in hell did we cool our heels for so long? Why schedule some poor soul for 10:30 when he won't actually see a doctor until noon?

Putting that aside for now, I can truthfully say my own time wasn't wasted. I got to see something worth the wait. Everywhere I looked, there were veterans with physical problems. You'd expect to see that at the VA. But what touched me, and made my visit very worthwhile, were the healthy people with them. Obviously family members, they were guiding the blind; pushing the wheelchairs of those without capability to walk; filling out paperwork for those with crippled hands; and otherwise doing whatever else was needed, even if it was just waiting patiently. It's never a waste of time to see love in action, especially when given to those who, in many instances, made severe sacrifices on our behalf.

So, I'm glad I did the driving and my own time wasn't wasted. But, on behalf of the vets, I've got to ask again: If a person isn't going to see a doctor until noon, why is he scheduled at 10:30? If you have the answer, you're one up on me.

Soon, with more better stuff.


Char said...

It is awful, isn't it. May be that time isn't that important to some people, but I can assure you time IS VERY IMPORTANT for the aged...and a little respect would be nice!

(not necessarily your) Uncle Skip, said...

It isn't necessarily just the VA who seem to store folks in waiting rooms.
Some of the clinics we've dealt with are even worse time bandits.
The waiting room isn't nearly as bad as being left unattended in an examining room.

Hilary said...

I think doctors' offices can often anticipate how to better schedule their appointments but I suspect that it varies from day to day. Patients have a lot of questions.. have a few tears.. are late to arrive and it throws their day off completely. I've known doctors who suggest calling a half hour before your appointment to see if they're running on time. If running late, they'll amend the appointment time accordingly.

Karen said...

I don't think there's an answer to that question. I've waited in a doc's office for 3 hours. That was *before* they sent me to the little room. :/

Buck said...

I'm with those above me, in that it ain't just the VA. Things are much, much better (wait-wise) in a small town yet I've still cooled my heels for hours in waiting rooms.

Good on ya for bein' the designated driver, Jim.

Daryl said...

if your doctor is not 'part of' some insurance company then you get to spend as much time with him/her as you need - asking questions, being talked to not at and getting a thorough exam ... once long ago i saw a doctor who was in a plan .. each patient was allotted 15 min for their appointment ... you cannot possibly examine and ask questions in 15 min .. of course the doctor didnt see people on time but he was told he had to make his quota of patients so he tried to get you in/out as quickly as possible one appointment i switched to a doctor who was not in my plan, i paid more then the co=pay but it was worth it.

Michelle H. said...

It can take one late person who wants to be seen immediately that throws of a waiting room schedule. They don't want to reschedule. They want to be seen NOW. And that forces other people who arrived on time to wait.

I remember at the pediatrician's office that I waited 4 hours to see the doctor. Of course, that was a day when the fire alarm went off and we had to wait for the "all-clear" to re-enter the building.

joeh said...

I always just assume the wait in a doctors office while my dentist is always on schedule. I think it is because medical emergencies are difficult to delay or reschedule. It is annoying. I'll bet there is a medical administrator who can provide a reasonable answer.

Great post, a fair, reasonable, kinder and gentler Suldog rant.

OldAFSarge said...

Good stuff Suldog.

I've had long waits in my civilian doctor's office. I think Michelle has the correct theory, but with one modification. Doctor's offices are now run by business people, business people will try to maximize the doc's time (hence increasing "productivity" and maximizing profit). Typically by scheduling more people than the doctor can possibly see, knowing that some won't show up on time or at all, you will fill the doctor's day. And your bank account.

Simple economics? Beats me.

But ya did a good thing there Suldog.

messymimi said...

When my dad was in private practice, sometimes the patients had to wait. After all, delivering babies doesn't go by schedule.

You are right that, if the wait times are that long every time, they need to change something.

Suldog said...

One of the important things to note is that Bill's visit was for his eye. He went specifically to the eye doctors there, as did everyone else in those two waiting rooms. From what My Mom said, it IS a regular thing to be waiting; it is exacerbated beyond what we experienced on certain other days of the month when patients from other regions are bused in.

Pat - Arkansas said...

You're a keeper, Sully!

Bill Yates said...

Great post, Jim. My brother, a Vietnam vet, volunteers one day a week to drive the DAV van from Northwest Arkansas to the VA Hospital in Little Rock. That sense of Duty...

Barbara Shallue said...

Social Security won't even let you make an appointment for most things. I had to sit in the waiting room 3 hours!

It' said...

I will attempt to answer your question.
#1~There are a lot of patients to see, and each are given an appointment. Michelle hit it on this one...all it takes is one or two early appt's to show up 10 to 15 min late, which is a effects every single appt after.
#2 ~ They purposefully overbook. If you have 100 people scheduled in one day, you'll most likely have a percentage that won't be able to come=maybe they have become too sick to travel, the car won't start, the person who was going to take them had some emergency, the dog ran out the door & they're still looking for them (yeah, I've heard that one). It's sort of like receiving rsvp's for a wedding. Rarely will everyone who rsvp'd will show up.
#3 ~ A patient who was booked for a 20 min appt needs 45 min, for whatever reason.

There are probably more examples, but it's just the way it is. I suggest taking up knitting (I recently tried to encourage my spouse to do so, but he declined, ha ha).

Tim King said...

Wonderful post, Jim. -TimK