Some of you who know me may be aware that I’ve developed a cataract in my right eye — and my left eye isn’t far behind. I’d put off doing anything about it for quite some time until it became such a nuisance that I had to do something about it. I was referred to Newman & Taub Eye Clinic back in June of 2018 and made an appointment.
My Original Appointment
My first appointment was notable only in the extent of the tests involved to measure my eyes and my need for cataract surgery. My thought at the time was that the experience at Newman & Taub was a bit on the “cool” side — meaning “showing no friendliness toward a person or enthusiasm for an idea or project.” But I didn’t really think too much about it at the time. Because I was in training for the 2018 YMCA Turkey Trot 5K, I decided to defer having the procedure done till after Thanksgiving. This was based on needing to be relatively inactive for a couple weeks while the eye healed. A not unreasonable approach, I thought, and Dr Claire Chu, the ophthalmologist, agreed. The race and the holidays over, I called the clinic in late January to make an appointment to get the ball rolling and went in for dilation on Feb. 7th.
Dr Chu seems quite bright but really has minimal social skills. She hasn’t given me reason to either like OR dislike her. But I’m certainly not inclined to recommend her at this point. And she definitely hasn't earned my trust. The important thing is, is she competent? She is knowledgeable and answers my questions, most certainly. But during my time with her, while I asked some questions, she had the annoying habit of speaking to her assistant sotto voce while I was speaking. I made a point of asking her for her attention. Finally, I prefaced a question with “one more quick question.” She flipped back that none of my questions were quick. Kind of ticked me off, truthfully. I got the feeling that she’s used to her patients not questioning her at all. That is definitely not me. An informed patient benefits everyone, I believe. Nonetheless, none of my questions were particularly lengthy or complicated nor were her answers. I required somewhat detailed answers but nothing out of the ordinary for a fully-informed and proactive patient. I’ll make a decision at the Pre-Op whether to continue with this process.
History and Pre-Op Appointment
This morning, my Pre-Op for cataract surgery did not start off well. Here are my impressions of the clinic, and Amanda Rochelle, the Surgery Coordinator. When she called my name in the waiting room, I rose to enter the door she held open. She gave me a very obvious ‘once over,’ and seeing my booted foot (I have a couple stress fractures) said nothing at all about it. There was no greeting at all, in fact, aside from telling me her name. Frankly, her “just follow me” attitude showed me she had no interest in me other than being another widget on the assembly line.
Amanda led me to a room where she was going to take some eye measurements. She offered no explanation of the measurements being taken aside from the very cursory, obviously scripted, said-it-a-thousand-times-and-it’s-still-uninformative blurb she recited. It gave me nothing of value. I even asked her again, hoping I could knock her off her script. Same response. Verbatim. I asked why she was taking the same measurement from two different machines, she said, “Because we have them.” Like I’m a 5-year-old asking a question she didn’t want to bother answering. It wasn’t, “to double-check the accuracy of the first machine” or “this one provides a measurement the first machine doesn’t take” or anything informative. Just a WC Fields-like “Don’t bother me, kid!”
We sat down to go over my paperwork, which I had filled in but not yet signed. Since I had a number of questions, still, I was waiting to finish going over the paperwork, to ask and have my questions answered, before I signed any document of financial responsibility — an entirely reasonable thing to do. I told her that I’d sign the documents at the proper time, meaning at the end of that process. “Now is the time,” she told me sternly, glaring at me. She might as well have said, “Heel! Go on the paper!” It was then that I told her that I had my doubts about the clinic, Dr Claire Chu, the opthalmologist, and now her, in light of how disrepectfully she and everyone else had treated me.
That obviously struck a nerve and she said that, “I’ve gone above and beyond in helping you.” She started enumerating things that were really just part of her job — arranging a discount because I’m a self-paying patient and calling me to tell me so — and she acted as if she was doing me a favor, giving me special treatment, and she felt unappreciated.
That only confirmed that I’d made the right decision and that I’d decided against having them do the surgery. Once I’d fired them, Amanda couldn’t get me out of there fast enough, it seemed to me. Practically gave me the bum’s rush.
I never received any indication during my entire dealings with Newman & Taub — except from the young woman who dilated my eyes — that I was anything other than a warm body being ushered through a well-worn process. Talking to a friend the afternoon of this sad story, while relating how I’d been treated, she remarked that it sounds like these people were NOT happy. And, further, this type of attitude toward patients — or customers, take your pick — usually starts at the top. I couldn’t agree more.
There was disrespect at every turn in this process. To me, respect does not mean being subservient, obsequious, or pandering to my every need. It means acknowledging that this is a difficult, somewhat complicated decision for me, and that I’m already uneasy with having this done, despite the necessity. It means acknowledging that I’m paying them a lot of money to perform this service, that I’m not relying on insurance or Medicare or any third party to pay for it. It’s coming directly out of MY pocket. I only ask for the same amount of respect given an insurance company who might pay them a visit, if not on the same scale.
My problem is with the clinic, Dr Chu, and now Amanda. I’m sure that they’re all very competent. They had a waiting room full of patients who DO trust them. I don’t. I don’t trust them to give me reassurances that having them do the surgery is the right thing to do. Because they haven’t. I don’t trust them to tell me the full cost of the procedure. Because they haven’t. Hidden, deep in the paperwork, was a notice that I’d be receiving a bill 4-8 weeks after the procedure for the anesthesiologist. His bill would be based on the number of units of anesthetic used. Is it really too much to ask for a bottom line number up front? All I ask is for transparency. Evidently, it’s too much to ask for.
The sad thing is that this attitude has become more prevalent, if not the norm, in healthcare. It has me looking elsewhere for cataract surgery. I’m planning a trip to Puerto Vallarta for a full-mouth dental restoration with implants, soon. I’ve been recommended a clinic there by an old radio colleague who couldn’t have spoken of them in more glowing terms. I wonder if there’s also an ophthalmologist there.
UPDATE — Valentine’s Day / Showin’ the Love
I’ve Been Fired!
In today’s mail, a letter from Newman & Taub arrived, dated the day I fired them. I find it rather ironic and post it here for your viewing pleasure.