Welcome To Luxury Hospital! (Tales From A Frontline Worker)
Posted on January 7, 2021
Might you be one of those folks who walks into a McDonald’s, expects to order a succulent lobster sandwich and glass of vintage wine to wash it down with? I’m hoping you mumbled “Uh, no.” Why? Because you know what you go to a restaurant like that for. And might you be the kind of person who’d call up their corporate office complaining about it? Okay, now I’m hoping for a “Hell, no.” Maybe McDonald’s isn’t the best example to use, but it is recognizable and I’m sure you get the point. Hospitals are a bit similar in you have an idea of what you’re there for when you say the word. What does this have to do with Thursday and my first post of the year? Well, one of my more colorful tasks I assist with at the hospital is answering the complaint/concern line. I’m betting you can see where I’m going with this now, can’t you?
So many examples of calls come to mind when I sat down to write this. I obviously want to make this as entertaining for you as it is for me, only I have to walk a fine line because I can’t give too much away lest I get into trouble. I shall therefore speak in generalities insomuch as I can.
I’ve always felt if someone is going to call in and complain, it should be for a legitimate reason. Whenever I’ve called in a complaint somewhere, I try to ensure it’s legitimate. Incidentally, I did contact McDonald’s once a couple of years ago because when I went in for a little comfort food, an employee behind the counter kept referring to the McRib as tasting like “McAss”. This was done in front of me several times while I waited for my cheeseburgers and didn’t seem McAppropriate. I wrote down the details of what I remembered, then made the call. Simple and efficient, right? It should be.
“Well, I haven’t really thought this through yet, but I wanted to call it in…” For the love of God, please don’t. Think it through BEFORE you call. This isn’t a college course. You aren’t a teacher and I’m not taking down notes to solve a story problem. I’m there to help once I know what the problem is.
“And what day was your food delivered thirty minutes late and cold?” (Don’t laugh. You’d be surprised how often we get this one. Now…wait for it…and by “it”, I mean their reply.)
“Nine months ago, last March.”
Oh, yes. We get calls for complaints like this often enough to remember them. I typically follow their reply up with “I have to ask…what made you wait almost a year to call in the concern?”
“I thought about it today and it still bothers me.”
If that’s the only thing bothering you right now, you’ve got a good life. And probably too much time on your hands.
Another favorite in the office is when we receive a call from the girlfriend or boyfriend of an employee who’s trying to get an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend of the aforementioned employee in trouble. “He/she looked at my private file! I want them fired!” We are required to report it and have someone look into it. And you know what? I’ve yet to see a case where someone has actually been found guilty of that. All that crap does is waste our time. Come on, people! We’re in the middle of a pandemic and people’s food from a year ago was delivered thirty minutes late and cold.
As one of my co-workers is fond of saying, “Ain’t nobody got time for that.”
Now, don’t get me started on Billing issues. Okay, you did. I feel terrible for anyone anywhere who’s had to deal with Billing. There is a special place in Hell for people who work there. A patient calls up Billing to get a question answered about something they have an issue with, and guess what Billing does? They send them to us. Do you know what we do? We take down the complaint from the now-incensed patient and…gasp!…send the complaint right back to Billing! Yes, that’s right, folks. We go full circle here. The Billing staff won’t answer it, so we make their managers do the job.
Another caller regaled me for far too many minutes on how college-educated they are, yet their complaint had to do with no one showing them how to use a crutch. I want to know what college they attended because if they couldn’t figure out how to use a crutch, the education system in America is far more fucked than I ever imagined.
This isn’t to say all calls we get are like the ones described here. They aren’t. There are people who call in who have legitimate concerns or complaints, and those are the ones I feel inspired to help the most. There are days I can leave feeling good about what I did that day because I know I made a dent in getting someone’s trouble resolved. And then there are days where the first call is about Billing, when a 92-year-old wants their charging cord back for their phone, and when I’ve asked “What kind of phone do you have?” have been shouted at with “A CELL PHONE.”
God, help me.
And Happy New Year.
Kristoffer Gair (who formerly wrote under the pseudonym Kage Alan) is the Detroit-based author of Honor Unbound, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To My Sexual Orientation, Andy Stevenson Vs. The Lord Of The Loins, Gaylias: Operation Thunderspell, several short stories featured in anthologies (to be combined in a forthcoming book), the novella Falling Awake, its sequel, Falling Awake II: Revenant and Falling Awake III: Requiem.