Saturday, March 1, 2014

People Watching in the Hospital

I spent yesterday in the waiting room of the outpatient surgery center of Johns Hopkins Hospital with Chris, who was having a minor procedure. Talk about confusion and bureaucratic inefficiency--that was the story of my day. 

The day was lost from the very beginning. Both the surgery center and the time of the surgery were change on the day before. The big problem was that they forgot to tell us that the surgery had been slipped from 1030 to 1230. No problem, I can handle that. But as the day wore on, the surgery slipped with each passing hour until finally occurring at 3 PM. Ugh! We did not finally depart until almost 6PM.

Fortunately, I had my trusty cell phone for company. Until the battery died. 

It was the realization that the cell phone would expire before the day ended that caused me to begin watching the people.

I remember an older couple waiting for the husband to have a procedure. I was amazed that when the man was called, the wife waved good-bye and didn't walk with him to go back for surgery. The wife then opened her purse and began to eat lunch right there in the waiting room. I only mention it because there were a lot of people waiting for procedures and they cannot eat--and so I am sure the food caused some angst among those who were hungry as lunchtime approached.

I was also fascinated by other people, some furiously conducting business on their cell phones while plugged into the wall trying not to think about their loved one in the surgery center. A needed distraction from a long day, I am sure.

And I overheard a sad story involving a man whose significant but unmarried other was having surgery, but he could not have access to help verify insurance information to get prescriptions. Somehow, the laws enacted to protect privacy have run amok by excluding people who are responsible for health care from access to the information they need, but, it seems the government can get any personal data that it wants.

There were so many people, coming and going during the day--until the end. We were almost the last people to leave. They were cleaning up the center around us as we left, more than eight hours after we had arrived. I was happy to pay the $12 parking fee and drive home after the successful surgery.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD


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