Thursday, February 18, 2010


I had to call Bleak House - I mean Västmanland County Hospital - today to schedule a gynecological exam.

The first thing I noticed was telephone time: 7:00 am - 3:00 pm, Monday through Friday. While I realize some women may appreciate an opportunity to make an appointment before running out the door to work, if the trade-off is to call at 7:00 am or 3:00 pm, I opt for the latter. I think I can safely say the first thought of the morning of most women I know is not "I want to call the gynecologist." (Note: abortion services are another number!)

Second, this is the number to make an appointment for an appointment. When you call, you get a recording that asks you to leave your name and number and a promise that someone will call you "around" a designated time. (My callback was 10-15 minutes late.) If you call too late in the morning, all the callback times are booked and you have to start over the next day. This arrangement is a slight improvement over the old system when you were allowed to call only one or possibly two hours a day and you had to sit on the phone in a telephone queue, often for half an hour or more, waiting your turn. But the fundamental question is: When they decided to make the appointment system more "user-friendly," was this really the best scheme they could come up with?

When the clinic does call you back, you can request an appointment. But first you must justify your need. When I explained my problem, I was asked if it was urgent or if it could wait. If it was an urgent problem, I could get an appointment within a few days. If it was a non-urgent problem, I would have to wait about 2½ weeks. Urgent? Non-urgent? Huh?

I don't know about you, but I don't usually plan my medical problems weeks in advance. When I call to schedule an appointment, it means I'm ready to see a doctor now. If I could wait three weeks, I wouldn't be calling this day; I'd be calling three weeks from now! When I call, it means I've done my waiting for the problem or pain to go away. I'm ready to see someone today (or as soon as possible). That's why I'm calling!     

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