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Do you have an appointment? Yes, but you’ll still be waiting.

By schmeah 15 September 2010 125

A recent experience at an Ainslie practice recently has left me pretty pissed off at the treatment of people who make appointments, keep them and yet are still expected to wait inconveniently long times for the other half to come to the party!

I had a scheduled appointment for 4 pm to see my doctor. Being retentive about making appointments and turning up on time, I rocked up at 4 and was told that said doctor had ‘1, 2, 3 oh no, 4’ patients ahead of me still waiting. I responded politely saying that I had left work early at 3:30 to make the appointment and it would have been equally polite for the surgery to call me and advise me that my doctor was so far behind schedule. I was told that ‘we don’t do that here, would you like to go away and come back in 40 minutes or stay’. Failing to see the attraction of waiting in a room full of sick people for 40 minutes, I said I’d come back.

So, turning up at 4:45 (5 minutes late I know) I was told that the doctor now had 2 people in front of me and ‘please take a seat’ – having already come from work to the doctors, gone home and returned I failed to see the benefit in going home again. So I waited, a full 30 minutes until my name finally got called .. at 5:15 pm a full hour and 15 minutes after my appointment time and nearly 2 hours after I had left work.

As I was leaving said Doctor’s office about 10 minutes later I politely stated that my appointment was at 4 pm and I didn’t get in until 5:15 pm, ‘could I please just pay the gap and be gone’. Perhaps I was stupid to think that an inner north doctor would be sympathetic to my situation because to say the least said doctor got snarky. I was told – ‘I’m not in here on holidays you know, I work hard, I’m thorough with my patients and I appreciate their patient, it’ll be $75’. Shut door.

Well said: I’d like you to note that, I too am not on holidays – in case my work clothing looks like theatre costume – I came from work to keep my appointment, leaving a full 90 minutes early. It’s very obvious that you are thorough with your patients, this is admirable, but perhaps in order to remain so diligent with their treatment and to not piss off you other patients you might like to expand your consultation times out by 10 minutes because the current system is obviously not working. Further, I am patient like everyone, I’ve waited 10 minutes here, 20 minutes there to see my doctor and I’ve never found this time lag inconvenient, it’s almost expected (sad as it is).  Said doctor’s attitude was totally perplexing and offensive to say the least- I, and I imagine other patients have lives outside of the off visit to the doctor – I don’t expect to make an appointment, turn up on time and be told I will have to wait over an hour to get in – forgive me for not calling in advance but really, shouldn’t that be the surgery’s job?

When I went to pay – the full $75, I asked quietly – (even though the waiting room was empty except for one poor man who’s appointment no doubt was scheduled for 4:30) ‘is it the policy of the surgery to not contact patients when their doctor is running more than an hour behind?’. I was given the response that ‘we don’t have the facilities to do that here – we do however recommend that patients call ahead .. Just in case’

Right, so what you’re saying is that – I have to do your job for you, not only do I have to wait more than a week for an available appointment time with said doctor, I also have to call on the day to make sure everything is chugging along happily and I can expect to get in on time. Does that phone next to you work by the way?  When it rings, and you answer are you just talking to yourself?

Rubbish!

I was completely outraged by this situation, that I had to wait so long beyond my appointment time to get in and then be told that in the future, it’s my job to call ahead. Unless you’re dying .. I would say go to a doctor elsewhere because the phones at this practice don’t work.

Oh goodness, is that the time?  I have an appointment with my bank manager in 2 hours, I should call ahead now to make sure said manager will be available at 4 pm, like I arranged for.


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Do you have an appointment? Yes, but you’ll still be waiting.
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vg 7:19 pm 26 Sep 10

poppy said :

If (as some have suggested) we should complain about doctors being greedy then point the finger at specialists firstly.

I recently tried to get an appointment at an opthamologist in Canberra, whom I had a referal to. I was asked by the receptionist “are you a new patient?” I said yes, then was asked “is it about a cataract surgery?” I said no, they said, “is it about some other type of surgery?” I said no, and the awkward pause led me to believe I should explain why I wanted an appointment. After explaining my medical condition, the receptionist told me “the doctor isn’t taking any new patients”.

My point is, many specialists have a huge financial incentive to only take patients who need simple, but lucrative surgeries.

If seeing a specialist and you don’t need a surgery, be aware that the specialist gets paid double for the initial consult and for follow up visits, they only get around half the fee. So, the specialist is very keen to get you out the door after your first visit because you really become a liability.

I would have said that it was inappropriate for me to be discussing my medical condition at length with a receptionist, and it was best my serious condition was dealt with by a medical professional

ronafios 1:00 pm 26 Sep 10

It’s just basic customer service to provide a sense of wait times using some method or other.

It’s not a significant cost to a practice.

When (essentially) the rest of the business world runs based on kept appointments, it’s frustrating to have a few groups who consistently opt-out of the unwritten agreement. A doctor’s appt is expensive, and more so when work time is lost. In my experience, doctors can develop a superiority complex based on the demand for their services, forgetting that they expect timely service when visiting the professionals they use (lawyers, accountants etc). It would be less frustrating if it was complicated to solve.

vg 6:57 am 25 Sep 10

Went to the same Ainslie practice on Monday for a 0915 appointment. Walked into the doctor’s room at 0917 and out at 0930 and had great service

No problems there at all

poppy 9:28 pm 24 Sep 10

If (as some have suggested) we should complain about doctors being greedy then point the finger at specialists firstly.

I recently tried to get an appointment at an opthamologist in Canberra, whom I had a referal to. I was asked by the receptionist “are you a new patient?” I said yes, then was asked “is it about a cataract surgery?” I said no, they said, “is it about some other type of surgery?” I said no, and the awkward pause led me to believe I should explain why I wanted an appointment. After explaining my medical condition, the receptionist told me “the doctor isn’t taking any new patients”.

My point is, many specialists have a huge financial incentive to only take patients who need simple, but lucrative surgeries.

If seeing a specialist and you don’t need a surgery, be aware that the specialist gets paid double for the initial consult and for follow up visits, they only get around half the fee. So, the specialist is very keen to get you out the door after your first visit because you really become a liability.

Grail 5:16 pm 20 Sep 10

The way to get your GP clinic to have more predictable queuing times is to bring in involuntary euthanasia, and anytime a patient exceeds their allocated time per visit or time per month, you euthanise them.

Thin the herd, and all that. They wouldn’t be taking up so much time if they were the fittest that are supposed to survive, right?

Alternately, pay doctors more per visit so they can afford to schedule fewer visits per day, and we can have more doctors because some people will get into medicine if they feel there’s money in being a GP. That, and train people from a young age to be concerned about the health and wellbeing of others.

Mulberry 2:39 am 19 Sep 10

schmeah said :

Thanks rioters for giving this post some rant time – oh, and endless thanks to Leinna who aptly proved my point by declaring that no, they would not wait more than 15 minutes for service at a cafe, because they could easily go elsewhere – if only we all had that luxury when it came to getting in to see our doctor who we had a scheduled appointment for, which we made a week previously in a city where, as other rioters have pointed out, many practices don’t take new patients.

Woody Mann (is your name a pun by the way) – if dentists , other doctors and whoever else, can make a text system work to advise patients that the dentist is running late – then why the hell do you think that other doctors can not. I certainly don’t argue with my dentist about paying when they have advised me to either turn up 30 minutes late, or please call to make another appointment and I certainly think that an hour is a long enough time to think of advising your patients that they might be in for a long haul – better bring the DS for the kids, and War and Peace for yourself.

I used to work for an agency conducting qualitative research on the elderly demographic – the sandwich job was an analogy – anyway, of a barrage of interviews conducted, the respondents (the oldies) would routinely state that going to the doctor was a coping mechanism to 1) get them out of the house 2) give them someone to talk to (usually the receptionist, other patients and finally the doctor – It’s not discriminatory – it’s actually a well supported observation.

well said… I booked an appointment a few weeks ago – waited nearly 2hrs… have been to two belconnen GP practices in the past few months and the same thing… since then Ive been going to the Ginninderra medical centre, where you can’t make appointments, its literally a first in best dressed scenario (for those who arent aware) and waited no more then half an hour at max, the doctors there are thourough and professional and these days Id much rather not make an appointment and take my chances then to make an appointment and wait 2 hrs!!

I understand that the doctors are streched and cant precisely time every appointment, but maybe they should allow more booking time between appointments. As someone earlier stated, this has always been the case, we should just “expect” the dr’s to be running late. Well frankly, thats just not good enough, its a service just like any other, and at that, a service that is often unaffordable and inconvenient. I will hold off going to the dr as long as I can just because of the expense, time wasting and inconvenience.

Yes – we have brilliant health care that other countries could only dream of, but it is STILL a business, a service, with “clients/customers” that will look elsewhere if not satisfied…

Deano 10:43 pm 18 Sep 10

A specialist I occasionally attend only offers two appointment times – morning or afternoon, and with a six month waiting list. Whenever you arrive, the waiting room is always full and you can be assured of spending an hour reading 5 year old magazines. He is usually working two consulting rooms and a surgery all at the same time. So even when you do get called in to see him, you only see him briefly when he asks you your name and to strip off and sit up on the examination table. You then spend another 10-15 mins sitting in the consulting room alone in your underwear whilst he pops out to perform a bit of surgery. After a quick examination he utters those words you are dreading: “I’d like to see you again in 6 months time” Noooooooooo!!!!!

Thumper 7:36 pm 18 Sep 10

Is it really true that old people are taking excessively long at the GP?

No. It’s people with serious health problems that take the longest. Surprising that hey?

schmeah 7:22 pm 18 Sep 10

Thanks rioters for giving this post some rant time – oh, and endless thanks to Leinna who aptly proved my point by declaring that no, they would not wait more than 15 minutes for service at a cafe, because they could easily go elsewhere – if only we all had that luxury when it came to getting in to see our doctor who we had a scheduled appointment for, which we made a week previously in a city where, as other rioters have pointed out, many practices don’t take new patients.

Woody Mann (is your name a pun by the way) – if dentists , other doctors and whoever else, can make a text system work to advise patients that the dentist is running late – then why the hell do you think that other doctors can not. I certainly don’t argue with my dentist about paying when they have advised me to either turn up 30 minutes late, or please call to make another appointment and I certainly think that an hour is a long enough time to think of advising your patients that they might be in for a long haul – better bring the DS for the kids, and War and Peace for yourself.

I used to work for an agency conducting qualitative research on the elderly demographic – the sandwich job was an analogy – anyway, of a barrage of interviews conducted, the respondents (the oldies) would routinely state that going to the doctor was a coping mechanism to 1) get them out of the house 2) give them someone to talk to (usually the receptionist, other patients and finally the doctor – It’s not discriminatory – it’s actually a well supported observation.

sepi 2:13 pm 18 Sep 10

Is it really true that old people are taking excessively long at the GP? I would think heaps ofthem are just there for repeat prescriptions etc.

I have noticed that whenever my dr is super late, it seems to be youngish women who are taking forever and a day in their appointment.

Mulberry 11:22 am 18 Sep 10

aussieboy said :

Wow I can’t believe how vicious these responses are.

quote]

hahaha I can!

jjoking 9:10 am 18 Sep 10

The 2 big hold ups at gp surgeries are:

When someone needs emergency service, if someone shows up with a mild complaint but is then found to have something serious. In this case they call an ambulance and wait with the patient until it arrives.

When somebody (usually and older person with a pension car) comes in for treatment but really only wants some one to talk to.

If you wanted them to call every time they were running late it is just another task for the receptionist to do, this will slow them down and maybe the whole service.

Also it is interesting to know that of the 30 odd students i know studying medicine at the ANU only 1 of them wants to become a GP. I don’t know why this is, but the question is always phrased what do you want to specialise in? you don’t JUST want to be a gp do you? Being a GP seems to be at the bottom of the pile in medicine so I guess we don’t get enough people training to become gps and therefore don’t have enough gps. I know they get paid enough, but do they get enough respect?

kezzafezza 8:29 am 18 Sep 10

I’ve heard that the Phillip Medical Centre doesn’t have appointments, it runs on a a ‘first come, first served’ basis. Also, you have to pay up-front, before you get seen, and if you don’t get to see a doctor before they close, you get no refund on your money. That’s kinda rude.

On the subject of doctors being late, I recently had an appointment at the Gungahlin Medical Centre for 9.30am, and didn’t get seen til 11.15am. On the other hand, more recently at that same doctor, I had a 3pm appointment and had to wait all of 3 minutes to get seen.

nhand42 8:02 pm 17 Sep 10

Woody Mann-Caruso said :

The first part of that sentence was accurate. I’m sure if you try harder you’ll be able to finish a whole one. But just to make you happy (I’m all for extending kindness to those…well, let’s just say ‘less capable’ than the rest of us):

Oh, I have no doubt that you think very highly of your own abilities.

Woody Mann-Caruso said :

And I’m not a medical doctor. I’m just a grown-up with zero tolerance for whiny little man-b*tches.

Yes, as stated before, there’s no danger of anybody mistaking you for a grown-up.

georgesgenitals 7:59 pm 17 Sep 10

OpenYourMind said :

GeorgesGenitals said:
“If a practice is really irritating you this much, go somewhere else.”

That’s the whole point. GPs won’t take new patients otherwise we would change. People new to Canberra can’t find a Dr at all. As I’ve said before, waiting 2hrs is a big problem if you (or more likely your child) gets sick often. It’s not being whiney, it’s complaining about a genuine problem that may well be affecting peoples quality of life and employment.

Complaining about people going to the Doctor with a sniff or cough annoy me as well. Even the mightiest among us get colds and coughs. We don’t want to go to work and spread our germs, our only option is to see a Dr to get a medical certificate. I don’t need a GP to tell me that I have a cold and that it is probably viral and there’s nothing they can do about it, but that’s how the stupid system works.

Equally unsympathetic are the comments relating to fitness and weight issues. People get sick, stop getting high and mighty about why they get sick and putting the blame back on them because they have to see a GP. I’m from the triathlon community and take fitness seriously, but I’ve still seen fellow athletes get cancer/heart problems and exercise related injuries.

The big issue we’ve got here is the shortage of GP services. How do we fix this problem?

I don’t disagree that this is a problem, yet where I live GPs take new patients no problem at, you just ring up and make an appointment.

sepi 7:36 pm 17 Sep 10

Seeing a GP in Canberra is becoming like seeing a specialist in other big cities. Hard to find one, long time to get an appointment, wait 2 hours on the day, and get charged 75.00.

We are worse off than most of Australia with regard to access to GPs, and I don’t’ see why we should be the only people in Australia to not see a GP unless we are practically dead, and then be happy to wait hours on the day.

As someone said above, in Sydney you can find a bulk billing dr to see you on the same day. In Adelaide all kids under 12 are always bulk billed. We are seriously ripped off in Canberra.

I don’t know what the answer is, but for a start we should be declared a regional area of need by the Fed Govt, and they should pay a higher levy on medicare to GPs for seeing Canberra patients. This would encourage new GPs to set up here, and might encourage current GPs to take on a few less appointments per day.

OpenYourMind 6:23 pm 17 Sep 10

GeorgesGenitals said:
“If a practice is really irritating you this much, go somewhere else.”

That’s the whole point. GPs won’t take new patients otherwise we would change. People new to Canberra can’t find a Dr at all. As I’ve said before, waiting 2hrs is a big problem if you (or more likely your child) gets sick often. It’s not being whiney, it’s complaining about a genuine problem that may well be affecting peoples quality of life and employment.

Complaining about people going to the Doctor with a sniff or cough annoy me as well. Even the mightiest among us get colds and coughs. We don’t want to go to work and spread our germs, our only option is to see a Dr to get a medical certificate. I don’t need a GP to tell me that I have a cold and that it is probably viral and there’s nothing they can do about it, but that’s how the stupid system works.

Equally unsympathetic are the comments relating to fitness and weight issues. People get sick, stop getting high and mighty about why they get sick and putting the blame back on them because they have to see a GP. I’m from the triathlon community and take fitness seriously, but I’ve still seen fellow athletes get cancer/heart problems and exercise related injuries.

The big issue we’ve got here is the shortage of GP services. How do we fix this problem?

Genie 12:53 pm 17 Sep 10

Also, the general public needs to take some responsibility. Do we actually need more GPs? Or do we just need people to grow up and stop going to the doctor for every little sniff and cough? Perhaps people could take responsibility for ensuring their own health, instead of gobbling down processed, sugar laden rubbish whilst sitting on the couch instead of exercising, then expecting medical intervention when they develop type 2 diabetes/polycystic ovaries/heart disease.

Oh Oh Oh Oh I know this one *puts hand up* People need to grow up and stop attending the doctor for every little sniff and cough !

And yes people also need to get off the couch and exercise and eat better, lose a little bit of weight. Australia has the highest obesity rate IN THE WORLD !!!!!! Our tax payers money spends more on treating weight related medical issues than anything else in the medical system.

The weather is warming up – put down the cheeseburger and go take your dog for a daily walk for at least 20-30mins.

(damnit stupid irony, now I want a cheeseburger)

Woody Mann-Caruso 9:55 am 17 Sep 10

Oh, I don’t think anybody would mistake you for a grown-up.

The first part of that sentence was accurate. I’m sure if you try harder you’ll be able to finish a whole one. But just to make you happy (I’m all for extending kindness to those…well, let’s just say ‘less capable’ than the rest of us):

And I’m not a medical doctor. I’m just a grown-up with zero tolerance for whiny little man-b*tches.

Jim Jones 9:24 am 17 Sep 10

Genie said :

1. I think your a moron

That’s worth looking at again solely for its delightful irony.

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