It’s personal policy that I do not let know that I am a doctor whenever I deal with anyone in the hospital. So, I take my number just like the bloke next to me, I wait my turn, I listen to the instructions given, I fret and get annoyed, just like the next twenty or fifty people waiting to be seen by the doctor. Call it a kind of social experiment.
I simply wanted to see how people are being treated. I didn’t want to be accorded artificial special treatment because of my ‘status’.
Several weeks ago, my wife took my 10-year-old son to the hospital for his ENT appointment. Atopy runs deep in my children’s genes (inherited from the maternal side – I’m allergic to nothing except extreme stupidity) and so Ryan was afflicted with allergic rhinitis, albeit mild. Although they were there early enough, it was past noon before Ryan was eventually seen by the doctor. By then, my wife was anxious to go to work and asked me to take over. Thankfully by then, my routine of morning rounds, seeing referrals and taking medical students for bedside teaching was done and so I quickly made my way to the clinic.
“The doctor said he needs to take his puff twice a day now. Just wait near this door for the prescription. His next appointment is in 4 months. I’m off to work now. Bye!”, my wife said hurriedly as she left Ryan in my care while we waited patiently in the clinic packed with more than a 100 people.
It took another 45 minutes for the nurse, an elderly woman, to appear at the door and shouted Ryan’s name. I quickly informed her that I was Ryan’s dad and may I have the prescription.
“Oh, you must be Dxxxxx”, said the nurse, addressing me with my wife’s name, after peering at me over the rim of her golden-frame glasses, and handed me the slip of paper.
I didn’t bother to correct her. Instead I took the slip of paper and exited the clinic with my son. On the way, I happened to look at what was written on the paper. I was surprised to find that his appointment was scheduled for 6 months later while the prescription for the nasal puff was amended to be administered once a day instead of twice and the supply was written for only 4 months.
I stopped my son, who by now was hungry and told him we needed to go back to the clinic to sort out the discrepancy. We went back to the clinic and I knocked at the door of the room where the nurse appeared from before. After a while, she opened the door and peered out and asked me what was the problem.
I explained to her that my son was advised to take his puff twice a day instead of once because his symptoms were not controlled and that his next appointment was supposed to be in 4 months.
“There are too many people in this clinic, so we had to extend the appointment to 6 months”, she explained, with a little annoyance.
“Ok, fine”, I said, “but the prescription is only for once a day and for 4 months only”, I pressed my point.
“Well, the consultant do not think he needs it twice a day”, she barked at me, raising her voice a notch.
“But the doctor who saw him said he needs it twice a day”, I persisted. “And 4 months is not enough, what happens for the two remaining months after the medication has run out?, I asked.
“That, you will just have to take care of yourself”, she said dismissively. I took it to mean I would have to source the medication from elsewhere until my son’s next appointment.
By now I got a little miffed. “You can’t do that! I would never do this to my patients”, I said determinedly.
By then, something must have flickered in her mind and she asked, “Are you a doctor? What doctor are you?” although she was quite oblivious to the the name tag I was wearing which suggested that I am a doctor.
“I’m a doctor at the MOPD (Medical Outpatient Department) and I always make sure my patients have enough medications”, I explained.
“Well, MOPD patients are different from ENT patients. MOPD patients have to take their medications. ENT patients don’t need to. They can skip medications!”, she retorted, looking smugly triumphant.
By then the medical officer who saw my son earlier had appeared having heard the commotion we were creating, and asked the nurse what’s wrong.
“This doctor here wanted bd dose of the puff but the consultant struck it off and only signed for daily dose”, she informed the medical officer.
“No, he needs it twice a day, and it is for 6 months, please make the changes in the prescription”, he ordered the nurse.
“Dr XXX (the consultant) is not going to be happy about this”, the nurse murmured spitefully while making the changes to the prescription.
I thanked the medical officer profusely and left the clinic with the re-amended prescription.
The whole incident left me with a sour taste. The nurse displayed a woefully uncaring attitude and in my opinion has no place working in a healthcare setting. The consultant was careless and flippant in simply striking off the prescription written by his/her medical officer without discussing it with the MO to find out the justification behind the double dosing needed and he/she did not bother to inform the patient (or in this case, me, as the carer of my son) regarding the dosage change. It was also highly irresponsible of them to short change patients with regards to their supply of medicine.
Things could be better. A whole lot better.