Tuesday, April 11, 2017

If Hospitals Were Run Like United Airlines

It's getting late in the day. Unfortunately the operating rooms are still full and there are still more patients waiting in preop for their procedures. The patients are all set to go, hospital gowns on and IV's in place. But the OR retirement party for a colleague is set to begin at 6:00 PM sharp. And nobody wants to miss this open bar farewell to one of their colleagues.

The nurse manager then quickly walks through the ward and asks each patient if they are willing to be rescheduled for another day. We won't even charge them for the IV and LR that are already running. What a deal! Surprisingly, few people are willing to wait for another day for their surgery.

"I took a day off from work for this operation. Do you know how hard it is to take time off to come to the hospital?"

"We drove for two hours to come here for nothing? No way will I want to do that again for no reason."

"You mean I fasted and took that nasty bowel prep for nothing? I will have to do that again if I reschedule my operation? Forget it."

The nurse manager then tries to sweeten the incentive. She offers to pay for the patient's parking garage ticket. Who could resist that offer?

Surprisingly not one person took the bait. How about a meal ticket to the hospital cafeteria? Free low sodium white meat turkey with low fat gravy! Will that do the trick? To her exasperation, again nobody is willing to leave voluntarily. It is now getting close to party time. Something drastic needs to be done. So she does the only thing she can think of, because her training is woefully inadequate to deal with uncooperative patients like this. She calls in hospital security.

Security comes to preop and asks how they can help. She tells them to start hauling away patients to the dressing room to get them the hell out of there. But where to begin. Okay don't pull the pediatric patients. Then you'll have to fight TWO angry adult parents. How about that 85 year old lady over there? No, you'll probably break one of her hips then we'll have to stay late tonight to fix it.

Well, how about that guy over there? He won't cause us any trouble. And he's alone right now so there won't be anybody to defend him. Let's go get him. Security approaches the man and tells him he has to leave. The guy protests and says he can't accommodate them. He claims he's a doctor and he would have to reschedule all of his office patients and throw his whole office into chaos if he doesn't get his procedure today.

The nurse manager and the officers are unsympathetic. They've heard these sob stories before. The time is now getting dangerously close to the party. The time for action is now. When the patient continues to be belligerent, they do the only thing they can think of. They grab him by both arms and physically drag him out of the gurney and to the dressing room, blood dripping out of his torn IV site, slamming the door shut behind him to let him think twice about his obstinance. "And don't come out until you're dressed and ready to go!" the officer yells through the door.

The unfortunate incident was captured by several visitors' cellphones and posted on Twitter where they quickly became viral. Angry emails and news coverage rained down on the hospital. "How can a hospital do this to a vulnerable patient?" they scream.

The CEO of the hospital mumbles some inadequate explanation about uncooperative patients after having made extravagant gestures to get them to voluntarily leave. Since nobody was receptive to the offers, the hospital had no choice but to do what's within our rights. People can have expectations of their hospital stay but nobody has a right to it so it's not really our fault, is it. Besides, we're the only full service hospital in town so you really don't have a choice about where you get your healthcare.

It was a fabulous retirement party after all.

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