Hours Spent In Doctors' Waiting Rooms Test Patients


Healthy And Fit

July 31, 1991|By Anne Haddad

Princess Diana's face stares up at me from the People magazine on the table in the waiting room. Jackie Onassis and other Kennedy women are on another cover. I'm sure they never had to wait an hour to be seen by their obstetricians. But I'm not a princess or a first lady, soI wait, bored because I already read those magazines weeks ago whilewaiting in line at the grocery store.

But here I am waiting again, wondering why the doctor can't just please see me so I can get backto work before my boss notices I'm gone.

Somebody should have the guts to send their doctor or dentist a bill for the time spent waiting.

Another approach would be to wait patiently for a reasonable time, then tell the receptionist that, sorry, you have to go because you have a life, too.

But we don't do that because we usually need to see doctors a lot more than they need to see us.

That's why it would have to be a concerted effort. Enough people would never agree to it.

Let's face it, we still revere and respect doctors and will wait for them longer than our common sense tells us is reasonable.

Doctors have the handy excuse that whenemergencies come up, they can get behind on the scheduled patients. That makes sense, of course, and I'm sure that happens a lot.

"He always says that, but he over-schedules," said Charlene Fischer of Westminster, who regularly has to wait about two hours until she gets seen.

"I think he books two or three people at the same time," she said. "The waiting room is always full -- sometimes standing room only. The tension is high because all the other women have been waiting."

Fischer manages the Westminster Senior Center and has two other children.

"My time is really valuable. I have no personal time," she said.

Fischer was seething as she talked about this doctor, butshe wouldn't identify him, and she said she's never confronted him about the wait.

She needs him. Her pregnancy has the risk of developing complications, and he's one of few Carroll County obstetricians who will see high-risk mothers.

"I felt locked in," Fischer said. "If I had had a better selection of doctors, I wouldn't have gone to him. He's very good, and I trust him. He's very compassionate, but I think he's very egotistical."

Still, she can't tell him that.

"I'm too intimidated," she said.

Most of our generation was broughtup to put up with just about anything from a doctor.

"Doctors aregod, and you don't ever bother to question them," Fischer said. "It's just ingrained. I had a lot of allergies when I was a kid, and I remember sitting in the doctor's office for hours, and it was always packed."

That crowded waiting room is what does it, I think. You figure everyone else is waiting, what makes your time so much more valuable than theirs?

I remember feeling the same way last fall, when Iwent to Baltimore to see a gynecologist who was a nationally known expert in the condition I had.

It was a 6:30 p.m. appointment, so my husband and I figured we would go right after work and have dinner later. I wasn't seen until 8 p.m. By then I wasn't sure if my headache was caused by hunger or anger.

I also noticed on the sign-in sheet that at least three other women were scheduled for the same doctorat 6:30.

But the whole time I was waiting and fuming, I couldn't bring myself to leave, because it took two months to get the appointment and, after all, he was an expert. One of the first things a nursedid was take my blood pressure, which registered higher than usual.

But when I met him, he was so nice and apologetic about the wait that I couldn't bring myself to spew out the tirade I had rehearsed between magazine articles.

One trick I have learned is to try to getthe first appointment of the day. And just in case three other people are scheduled for that time -- go at least five minutes early to bethe first one there.

If that doesn't work, go ahead and try billing your doctor for the time you spent waiting. You won't get your money, or even your money back. But your doctor will get the point.

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