Friday, February 1, 2013

Last Day at the Clinic

     It wasn't a touchy-feely day. 
     True, we were gifted with flowers, cards, cookies, cake, fruit, fudge, a twelve-pack of Corona, Korean noodles with shrimp, and cinnamon granola.  There were tears in the exam rooms.
     But the waiting room was jammed with people pushing one another over to get in line to pick up their charts.  Was it because the charts were "free"?  Or were they worried that the feds might show up and confiscate their records, again?
     "They were downright nasty," the first receptionist told me.
     "You wouldn't believe it," said the other.  "You just don't think people can be like that."
     Our crude animal instincts lie right below the thin veneer of human decorum.
     A few people seemed angry that the clinic was closing.  How dare we do that to them?  The clinic was theirs.  It belonged to them.  We had no right. 
     I's a terrible abandonment.  And who, really, owns anything?
     "Gimme, gimme, gimme!" they seemed to be saying, all afternoon. 
     It was difficult to keep up with patients' demands, because there were forms to sign and questions to answer.  We have to comply with HIPAA, after all, and there are other "risks" that must be minimized.
     "What?  You're closing?" asked a young man and his wife, who were trying to make their way through the crowd to notify a nurse that they were here for their doctor's appointment today.  They had two small children who were looking up at the flailing arms and strange faces as though they were at a circus.  Their parents held tightly to their hands.
     "I'm not signing any forms," shouted someone.  "That's my chart, and you have to give it to me! 
     "Please, form a line," said the receptionist, and some people complied.
     "We're going to take care of everyone," she told them over the buzz.  "Try to be patient."
     "I have seven minutes to get my bus," one woman shouted, as she elbowed her way to the front, almost knocking someone over.  Give me my chart, and give it to me right now!"
     "Hey, stop butting in line!" said another.
     (Should we call in a security guard, or a bouncer, I wondered?)
     "I'm not waiting any more," announced a woman who was fairly new to the clinic.  "Just hand it over."
     I was reminded of those subhuman scavengers who show up after airplane crashes and rifle through charred body parts and broken fusillage to rob corpses of money and jewelry.  
     Or, maybe getting what you can is not subhuman, but also what it means to be human?
     There were patients who wanted a receptionist to explain their lab results, in order to save time. Some people think anyone who works in a medical office can diagnose and treat them, as though the skills are acquired by proximity to the medical profession, and not by long years of training.
     A clinic isn't a passport agency or a post office, where you wait your turn to get something mundane.  People wanted to talk.  They needed closure.  The ruckus was about more than manila folders.  There was panic in the waiting room, and despair.  By the end of the day, some of it had rubbed off onto me.
     The last patient left at 9:15, and I sat at my desk with papers piled high, and the clock ticking, and that wonderful bag of home-made granola.
     Thank goodness for granola--and the people who make it, and give it to their doctors as a gift. 
     Because, I'm telling you, I was really hungry.

No comments:

Post a Comment