“I’d like to have someone take out these staples,” said the well-dressed woman who came to the registration window.
“OK,” said the registration clerk, “we’ll get you registered and we’ll get you right back to a room.”
“Perhaps you didn’t understand,” the woman stated as her voice went up a few decibels, “I want someone to take these staples out now and I’m not going to register to have it done.”
The registration desk is on the other side of the wall from the fast track nurse’s station. There was a lull in the action, so I was leaning against the wall talking with a couple of nurses when we heard the woman raise her voice. Everyone stopped talking, looked at each other, and furrowed their brows. One of the nurses went up to the registration area to perform some reconnaissance while pretending to use the copy machine.
She came back with a sour look on her face.
“It’s Rhonda Jones. Her family owns several restaurants in the area. They’ve got a lot of money and they like trying to push people around.”
The registration clerk was already getting flustered. “I’ll have to call my supervisor. Just a minute, ma’am.”
“Is Dr. Koop down here today? Maybe you can just call Dr. Koop instead.”
Dr. Koop was the head of the medical staff and well-known in the community. Very high-profile doc, but he was a cardiologist and didn’t work in the emergency department.
“Just a moment, ma’am. Ummm … Dr. Koop isn’t on call tonight.”
Now to put things in perspective, I don’t have any problems doing minor things to help patients. There’s a policy that all patients seen in the emergency department must have a chart made. On one hand, medicine is a business. I get that. On the other hand, morally, I have a hard time justifying a several hundred dollar charge to a patient for doing something that takes two minutes. I’ve gone out to the waiting room or into the triage room and pulled sutures, adjusted a splint that was too tight, and checked people’s blood pressure for them – without registering them to be seen. To me, it’s just the right thing to do and I think it improves the hospital’s reputation with the patients.
By this time the woman had raised her voice to the point that people in the waiting room stopped talking to see what was happening.
“You call Dr. Koop NOW and tell him that Rhonda Jones is here,” she said firmly.
I walked out to the registration desk.
“Is there a problem?”
“I need to have these staples removed.”
“Why are you raising your voice with the registration clerk?”
“She wants me to register so that I get another hospital bill and I’m not registering to have it done.”
“Unfortunately, the hospital policy is that anyone receiving treatment must be registered to be seen.”
“Then you need to call Dr. Koop. He’ll come and remove the staples.”
“Again, we don’t call doctors when they’re not on call, and I’ve never seen a doctor come in from home to remove staples, so even if we did call Dr. Koop, I doubt that he’d come to the hospital tonight.”
“He’s a family friend of ours. He’d come.”
“Have you tried calling him?”
[Awkward pause. . . .] Uh oh.
“What is your NAME, doctor?”
And so it went from this woman attacking the registration clerk to her attacking me, then calling the administrator on call and telling her I was being rude, then saying the CEO of the hospital would be getting a call in the morning.
In the end, the woman made a fool of herself and she stomped out of the hospital without getting her staples removed.
For once I didn’t have a moral dilemma about it, either.