Virtually real- Virtuellement vraie

Micheline Harvey: Virtual Assistant, real person/Adjointe Virtuelle, mais tout à fait vraie

The patient’s point of view or – Hey doctor, could you look at me? March 18, 2014

DoctorIt’s good to have accessible healthcare and to be able to get treatment and not worry about paying for expensive tests, therapies, surgeries. And yet, it’s sometimes difficult to be a patient in our current system.

I had a non-urgent ultrasound done in the public healthcare system recently. I must admit, I have very little memory of the ultrasounds I had when I was pregnant, many, many moons ago. I did remember that it could be quite uncomfortable, but that the outcome usually trumped the discomfort.

This time was very different as I am not pregnant and therefore not anticipating any exciting news. When I called to schedule the test, I asked if they were usually on time or if they had an average delay. I was told that they were “pretty much on time.”
Smart girl that I am, I did not believe this and factored in that they were probably anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes late with their appointment times, perhaps more.

When I read the prescription sheet that instructed I should drink 1 liter of water, 1 hour before my appointment time, I thought that this was a bit insane, as they prescribe the same amount and time to everyone, regardless of sex, age, size, etc. and yet we all know that men have larger bladders than women, and how do you know when your appointment time is, if they are not on time? So, I decided I’d drink ¾ liter about 45 minutes before my appointment time. I did the math, it made sense to me.

When I got there, I asked again if they were on time and was told that yes, they were right on time.
And yet I was called in 40 minutes AFTER my scheduled appointment time. Liars. I was uncomfortable, but it was tolerable.

The technician did the ultrasound and claimed that my bladder was not quite full enough to see everything clearly. He called in a doctor that looked like he was about 100 years old (…) and they decided that they’d have me wait for 10-15 minutes tops, which is usually long enough for the rest of the water to make its way to the bladder, and they’d call me in again.

I asked them if they could assure me that it would be no longer than 10-15 minutes and they said of course, we would not want to make you wait longer, it would be very uncomfortable.

And yet, 30 minutes later, I had still not been called and I was in agony. I knocked on the exam room door and asked them if they had forgotten me as it had been more than twice the maximum time. The technician said “two minutes”. Ten minutes later, I wanted to kill the entire hospital staff, including the cafeteria lady who was not even looking at me at the time (poor cafeteria lady, I’m sorry …).

I stood in front of the exam room door and when the tech came out I said “It’s now or never”.

He showed me into a second exam room and started the examination. It was excruciating. I thought I was going to have a heart attack. I am pretty tough when it comes to pain, and quite patient usually, but this was just horrible. I told him to hurry up because this was no longer simply uncomfortable, it was painful. A bladder can burst, you know!

He finally finished with his images and said that the (100-year old) doctor would be in in 10 minutes or so to take more images.

I told him he was nuts if he thought I’d wait any longer.

He said I could go relieve my bladder a little. A little? Is he kidding me?

Long story short, this experience was extremely uncomfortable, painful and embarrassing to me. The doctor did not answer my questions, did not look at me and I didn’t even feel human. He simply stated that the report would be sent to my family doctor and I’d hear back if necessary.

I am angry that they were not upfront with me about delays and I am bothered by the impersonal quality of the experience.

I will never agree to an ultrasound again. They can check out my insides some other way.

And I fully understand why people who can afford it have their medical tests done in private clinics.