One Notices a Certain Sense of Disarray Among the U-M Medical Center Staff

I’m sure they’re all just lovely people.  But both Gail and I noticed from our first exposure to the U-Md. ENT Clinic yesterday that there’s a certain, well… “attitude” among the clerical workers at the place.  Let me see if I can sum it up for you in three letters.


We were told to arrive early yesterday.  We did.  Gail was told to sign the “sign in” clipboard.  She did.  Her appointment was at 10am.  She wasn’t even called back to have her vitals checked until 10:50.

Once we were with the medical staff, all went well, all went smoothly and we couldn’t have been happier.  Then the doctors suggested that we wait out in the waiting room until the OR scheduler could meet with us.  This was at about 11:20 am.

At about 11:45 the scheduler came out and gave Gail a bunch more papers to fill out.  For the third time that morning, she had to fill out a long list of medications she takes, what diseases she has experienced, operations she’s had… blah blah blah.  Why can’t you fill that out once, and then have that info migrated to every other form they need filled?  We asked the scheduler when Gail was supposed to have her PET/CT scan.  “Pep scan?  She’s supposed to have a Pep scan?  Pep scan?”  She said she’d look into it and took off.  Gail filled out the paperwork.

At about 12:15 the scheduler came back out to deal with another couple.  Looked at us, pointed.  “You good?”  “Still waiting,” I said.  She smiled, turned around and walked away.

At about 1pm she came out and informed us that Gail’s pre-op eval will be at noon on Wednesday.  We would get a phone call on Thursday telling us when to be there on Friday for the operative endoscopy.  She still had no idea about the “pep scan” but gave me a number to call.  Then she told us we had to go to a nearby lab so Gail could get some blood drawn.

While Gail was getting her draw, I called the number for the “pep scan.”  A rather snotty-sounding young lady started taking my info, then she said, “Oh, I have you right here.  I’ll be calling you tomorrow to let you know when the scan will be.”  See, my insurance needs to pre-authorize whether or not Gail will be able to stay alive.

It was 3pm, but we were finally on our way home.  I was two pills behind on my levodopa/carbidopa and my blood sugar was through the floor.  Gail was so flustered and harried her brain was shutting down.

We got home, both in an utter state of exhaustion.

Today, I waited until about 2:30 to call the snotty little number at x-ray.  “I told you yesterday that you need insurance pre-authorization,” she said.  I said, “No, you told me yesterday that you’d call to let me know when the PET/CT scan would be.”  I tried to explain that things are moving in a hurry, that they want to do this operative endoscopy on Friday and she cut me off, “I told you I would call you when I had the info,” she said.  “Look, I said.  Don’t get mad at ME!  I’m just the patient’s husband here.  The doctor wanted all this done.  Will I be hearing from you later today about this?”

“Today?  Ummmm.  No.”

“Well, then,” I said.  “Is there anything we could do to get the insurance company to step up the authorization?”  Despite my opinion about insurance companies in general, I think it unlikely they will turn down a PET/CT scan for someone whose life is depending on getting an accurate tumor staging.

“Ummm, no,” she said.

“Fine.  You have my number.  Call me when you’ve got something, OK?”  She said she would and we both hung up.  A couple seconds later the phone rang.  It was her.

“Did your wife have a biopsy or blood tests or anything?”

“Yessssss….” I said.  “She had the biopsy on Jan. 31.  We were told of the results on Feb. 7th.”

“Do you know what doctor did it?”

I told her the doctor’s name.  I had to spell it for her.  Twice.  I told her that Gail had her blood drawn yesterday.  She wanted the doctor’s phone number.  I told her that the UMD docs we saw yesterday TOLD us that the ENT doc had already sent them the info.  But she wanted the phone number, so the phone number she got.

I swear to God, when Gail has her surgery I won’t be surprised to see one of those things where you pull out a little piece of paper with a number on it, then have to watch a light board to see when your number pops up before you go back to the pre-op room.


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