Today, I’m going to tell you the story of what happened to a friend of mine. He was recently in the hospital for a serious heart issue, including a build-up of fluid around his lungs. Let’s call him C.
C’s family doctor is a bit of a jerk, but C lives in an area that’s underserved by physicians. So, he’s reluctant to try to change or go without a regular Dr, and rely on walk-in clinics. C has picked up hints that other patients have complained about this doctor. Once, the doctor threw a medical file across the room in C’s presence. Like I said, a jerk.
C has an appointment with his doctor every couple of weeks, to deal with an issue he’s having with his foot. A couple of weeks ago, C asked the doctor if he could listen to his lungs instead because he had developed a bad cough. “No”, the doc replied. “This appointment is for your foot.”
A few days later C ended up at the ER and then admitted for a week because this cough was a sign of fluid buildup in his lungs because of a heart ailment. He couldn’t breathe. They gave him every possible test and kept him in the cardiac unit until they got him fixed up with a plan for his recovery and future care.
After his release, another foot appointment was coming up. So, thought C, I’ll just ask him to listen to my lungs instead of checking my foot. Surely, he’ll see the urgency this time. As everyone knows, when you’re released from a hospital, you’re supposed to follow up with your family doctor.
C’s doctor came into the examination room and said something like, whoa, you had an interesting week! The doctor had obviously been reading C’s chart and learned of his serious ailment and hospital stay. C agreed – interesting.
The doctor sat down and said, “Okay, take off your shoe and let’s look at this foot”.
C said, “Well, my foot really isn’t the issue anymore. I need my lungs listened to and my blood pressure checked”.
“Nope”, said the doctor. “You booked this appointment for your foot. I need to see your foot”.
“But doc”, said C. “I just got out of the hospital. The cardiac care unit. Can you please just listen to my lungs and make sure the fluid is draining”?
The doctor shook his head. “It says here I’m looking at your foot. This appointment is for your foot”.
C stared at him in disbelief. Silence. He meant it. This was an appointment for a foot and nothing else. He would not listen to C’s lungs or check his blood pressure. That would have to wait for another appointment.
C asked if he was serious. “Dead serious.” So, C got up and left. Somehow, someway, he will find a different doctor, and a better one.
My doctor’s office also asks us to limit our issues to one per visit. If I bring up a second issue and ask my doctor if it’s okay, he waves his hand dismissively (to the rule) and says, “of course, what’s up”? I have also switched issues when something more urgent has come up, with no problem.
But even if the one-issue rule was immovable, shouldn’t a patient be allowed to change the issue to something more pressing? Say, a heart instead of a foot?
C called the College of Physicians and Surgeons and discovered that this is completely at the doctor’s discretion. However, a patient can open a complaint file and require the doctor to respond to it. C decided not to do that. Funny, though, that at the specialist’s office, that doctor made references to the jerk being, well, a jerk. Basically, the heart guy couldn’t believe the GP guy still had a practice at all, let alone a busy one.
I would have filed an official complaint, no question. I would also rate him on the rate-my-doctor website. But C doesn’t want to do this. I hope he reconsiders. In the meantime, he’s looking for a new doctor. One who recognizes that a damaged heart and watery lungs are more important than a sore foot.