Clinic leaves news of cancer diagnosis on voice mail

Credit: Stepan Crani

Credit: Stepan Crani

How, in 2014, does this happen? What thinking, feeling person believes this is an acceptable way to convey this kind of news?

A surgeon’s office calls a patient* who had cancer surgery three weeks before. The patient doesn’t answer so the office person leaves a message to confirm the date, a week hence, of the follow-up appointment to discuss the pathology.

Fine.

Then, three hours later, the associated cancer clinic (a major Canadian centre) calls the same patient, who is still not home, and leaves the following message (wording approximate): Your appointment with the surgeon has been cancelled. Instead, see <substitute doctor> a week later. In the meantime, call the radiation oncology department.

No reason was given why the appointment with the surgeon was cancelled, or why the  particular substitute doctor was the designate – a doctor who had been impatient and dismissive in an earlier consultation with the patient. No phone number was given for the radiation oncology department. And the caller did not give his/her name.

There is a difference between knowing that you might require radiation and being told that yes, indeed, you do. And there is a difference between being told by a nameless functionary via voice mail and being told in the surgeon’s office, where context and Kleenex (if necessary) can be provided.

The patient knew radiation might be needed, but knew nothing else, not yet having had the follow-up appointment with the surgeon to discuss the full findings from the surgery.

But there is a difference between knowing that you might require radiation and being told that yes, indeed, you do.

And there is a difference between being told by a nameless functionary via voice mail and being told in the surgeon’s office, where context and Kleenex (if necessary) can be provided.

This just occurred on Friday. By the time the patient was able to call back for further information, the surgeon’s office and clinic were closed for the weekend.

Stay tuned – many phone calls will be made on Monday.~TM

*Said patient is not me, but someone I know well, living in another Canadian city, and who I was planning to accompany to the appointment with the surgeon.

 

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2 responses

  1. OH Terry, this is DREADFUL and this must be Roxe…I am so sorry. What next? best Adele

    Date: Sat, 27 Sep 2014 22:50:10 +0000 To: adelem@bell.net

    1. Thanks, Adele. She’ll make a few phone calls on Monday to see what’s up with the surgeon and to put the cart before the horse – i.e., finding out what the pathology showed and then proceeding to additional therapy.

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