By Priya Arunkumar
The queue had 10 people. But the two metres separating each one seem to add to the distance and it was a long wait. I picked a paper, sat on the outer section and began to read. I was waiting for my colleague’s daughter to finish the appointment process. I was there as a moral support.
After 20-long minutes, the receptionist at the radiology counter looked up, and said the doctor concerned had reported sick; the appointment has to be rescheduled. To add insult to injury, she brusquely added: but you’re not supposed to be here. Our hospital staff must have informed you about the change in schedule. That did not happen. In fact, my colleague had a message that reminded her for the ultra scan today at 11.30am.
Well, to cut an ugly episode short, an argument ensued, and within minutes a booted-suited operations staff marched up to us and snapped his fingers at us, beckoning us to follow him to the ground floor, which we did silently. His self-introduction was a prologue to his declaration that we were ‘liars’.
As we held ourselves from exploding, he added that their staff had diligently called every single patient and informed them of the reschedule. Moreover, he had ‘proof’. He told us to wait outside a door and he went in to see the lady staff, who was tasked with calling all the patients for a reschedule.
Ten minutes later he returned, clutching a paper, and asked us rudely: “Is this your mobile number?” It was indeed the right number, but my colleague received no such calls. Maybe you didn’t but your husband did, he said as though he was a seer. See this paper, our staff has handwritten the call list she made today. My colleague said no, husband goes to office at 7.30am, and the phone was with us. There was no such call.
The whole episode went to another level. Now it was the turn of the operations’ manager, the boss of the earlier staff who had called us liars, to enter the scene. He beckoned us to the side room and told us to wait, while he checked the call records. If our staff says she had called, then she most certainly would have. She is not a liar. You must have missed the call!
He was confident and suited to boot. But he did not snap his fingers like his junior. We were in a side room, having been strategically moved there, so that other patients would not have to hear the arguments. The hospital has a reputation, you see. We patiently waited while he sat in one of the computers and checked the records.
After 10 minutes or so, when he should have done at least two to three rounds of checking, his face reflected the truth: the call records did not show my colleague’s number. But like all those who realise that they have erred, he kept on dawdling and biding for time, wondering how to get out of the mess. I saw red and called him out. Found our number, I queried in a tone that I reserved for such occasions.
He sheepishly got up and then began to profusely apologise. The call records have revealed that the call was never made. “If our staff says she had called, then she most certainly would have. She is not a liar. You must have missed the call!” his words dulled in the background, till it faded away.
Er, the hospital will reschedule and inform you of a new date and time, he said again flashing a sheepish grin, but totally insincere within and without. Where was the ‘judge’ who had declared us liars?
A sick customer is put through such humiliating experience, names are called and not even a proper apology is given. And the lady-who-never-lies, was suddenly too busy to meet us. These are service providers to the sick and suffering who are coughing up their hard-earned money on scary diagnostic investigations; filled with fear and anxiety of the test results, which had the power to erase their future or if lucky enough, to push it forward. Clinics and hospitals are not ice-cream parlours or leisure outlets, where you would check in to relax and enjoy. People come in with physical pains and mental fears and trepidation of their future. If nothing, at least a little bit of kindness, a dab of warmth, a tiny smile, or at least a polite, considerate word, would go a long way in giving them some confidence to undergo their medical ordeal.Instead this is what they had dished out: a sick ego trip, just to prove that they are right, but unfortunately, in this case, failing miserably.
Imagine… it is in such grubby hands that we entrust our frail, ill-laden selves to be insulted and manhandled and without even a sorry sir or ma’am.
And, we also pay for the misery.