This post is not going to get read by many people. If anyone at all. But I need to get this off my chest. In the great order of things it is probably inconsequential. A First World Problem. But I have the distinct sense that what I am going to write about is far too common. That our health care system is in fact very uncaring - especially in terms of caring about the patient. The best, most efficient hospital, of course, being the one that has no patients.
I am fortunate to have a GP. Not everyone in Vancouver can say that. My GP and I have built up a relationship. We talk. About all sorts of things, not just my condition. She had some concerns about a rare but very dangerous type of drug interaction. I am not going to get into any personal details here, but my partner pointed out that what we learned is probably a pretty good way to commit suicide. Another reason for not writing about that is that when some people learn these things they tend to try them.
So after some discussion, I agreed to see a specialist. And he is located at this place.
So I go there and get examined - and while nothing really new emerges, they ask me to return for a test. Not invasive, no big deal. Just to confirm what was found during the examination. They make an appointment for me about ten days away. At 7am. They tell me to be there fifteen minutes ahead of time. A bit like the way you are told to get to the airport early. Not exactly necessary, but just in case.
So I get there at 6:45 and find the building locked up. The building is not open until 7am. It is a big building covering a whole city block, so I stroll around it. On one side there are notices, so I go check to see if one has any information about people with early appointments. Someone - in scrubs - is hanging around in the lobby and he lets me in. There are quite a few people hanging around in the lobby. The coffee shop is open. I learn that although you can call an elevator and ride up in it, you cannot get off at any floors if you do not have the right electronic card.
Access to the place where the test will take place is not available until 7am. And when I get there of course, the people are just arriving for work. It does indeed take about 15 minutes before they can actually start running the test. And it can be completed before those with 8am appointments start arriving.
When I leave they confirm what is already written on my information sheet. There is a special telephone number to call, in a week's time, to get the results of the test.
I called that number this morning. Yes they have the results. No, I can't have them. They will be given to the specialist, and he will call me when he gets back from Spring Break. At the beginning of April. Once he has had time to review the results. And, of course, all the other tests on other patients that have taken place in his absence.
This is not a life and death matter. It is not like I am under some imminent death sentence until I learn the test result. It is No Big Deal. It is just, in both sets of circumstances I have described, completely unnecessary. They knew when they gave me the appointment that I could not get in at 7am. They knew when they told me to call this number at this time that I would not get the results. But that is what they always tell everyone, every time, so why should they make the effort to tailor the instructions for those times when something different is needed? This cannot be the first time this has happened. Nor can it be the first time that a patient has been given inaccurate information about things like test results or appointment times.
In any other business, outside of health care, this would be regarded as something to correct. To improve the customer experience - or what ever the current buzz phrase is. But at VGH, I do not believe that me saying something to someone is ever likely to change what I think is, fundamentally, an attitude towards patient care. Patients attend on doctors, not the other way around. I am sure that there are similar stories playing out everyday in other hospitals, healthcare facilities of all kinds, in all sorts of places. And probably much worse too. But for some reason I feel better just for having written this. Blogging as therapy. Could be a book in that.