Monday, April 23, 2007

Medical inefficiencies

Today I had a crazy experience. I was going to my allergist whose office is located in a five-story medical office building in Santa Monica. (Digression: I have a lot of problems with this building. For one thing, it's the only building I've ever been in where the top floors of the underground parking are allocated to the tenants. In other words, we patients drive around and around the parking garage, into the bowels of earth, passing row upon row of doctors' Mercedes and BMWs. And doctors are supposed to be just as disadvantaged by HMOS as patients? Digression ended.)

So when I'm going into the elevator this older woman and a very young woman who I think was her assistant are approaching the elevator as well, and the older woman falls down. She says she's ok, so I go into the elevator. I feel guilty though, so while I stand there I watch other people enter the elevator room and walk away from the woman, so assumed she was, in fact, all right.

When I left my allergist 20 minutes later, the two women are still in parking garage and the older woman is obviously NOT all right. The younger woman is in a panic because she can't reception on her cell phone (remember we're in the bowels of the earth) and the older woman is stretched out in a parking space groaning in pain. This is a very busy office building, and the elevator room is central to the parking lot, so others must have seen them and not helped them. So I volunteered to go up to the older woman's doctor's office and get the doctor. Turns out the office doesn't open for 15 minutes (remember the woman had already been on the ground for 20 minutes at this point.) So I go into the pharmacy and then my own doctor's office and told whoever I found that there's a woman in acute pain lying down in a parking space and is there anything you can do? It turns out no one knew who to call and the other medical professionals couldn't do anything because the woman wasn't their patient. Thus, I am in a five-story building full of doctors and no one would go to help her. When the woman's doctor's office finally opened, the receptionist said she would send someone down with a wheelchair, even though the woman clearly needed a stretcher. Apparently the physician in question was not in the office yet.

Long story short, another passerby ended up calling an ambulance to take the injured woman to an emergency room, which no doubt cost thousands of dollars as emergency visits are wont to do. I can understand the potential for lawsuits if someone touched the woman and further injured her, but damn, it seems like the health profession could be a little more patient-centered. Where are the doctors that you see on TV who are so passionate about helping their clients that they risk life and limb to do their duty? I guess they're just on TV. The moral of the story: Don't fall down in a doctor's office building because you ain't gonna get help.

(Another digression: This incident reminded me of the time that Mr. Boo and I were crossing the street with one of our friends and said friend got hit by a car making an oblivious right-hand turn. The driver got out of the car all panicky but the other cars at the intersection just backed up and drove around the body on the street. Said friend was not injured, but the incident did not improve my faith in human nature. Do you think this kind of disregard for others is endemic only to Los Angeles?)

No comments: