Thursday, October 25, 2012

Firing our pediatrician.

Way back when I sent this letter to my pediatrician, it was to explain a situation I wasn't happy about. Our pediatrician of 10 years (seen us through 2 kids' kidney failure, dialysis for 1 and 2 kidney transplants). I faxed the letter twice because the founder of the practice did not respond to it the first time I faxed it. You know, benefit of the doubt and all that.
Then I was in the office a year ago and mentioned the incidents and the letter to the doctor – one of our favorites – and she assured me she would get to the bottom of it and contact me. Not a word. So, we got settled into school and fall and flu shots and so that's where those months went. Then we were there a lot because of fall sicknesses and one of the visits I was handed a survey for the visit before the (new) doctor came in and I was able to list my issues. I literally wrote “Generally I am not satisfied with the practice right now and considering leaving because of incidents in April I’ve tried to address three times.” (or something similar). I watched her hand write a note, attach it to my survey, and walk it to the founder’s door and leave it for her. I heard nothing from the founder.
Okay. Enough. I got it. I needed to fire our pediatrician.
So I interviewed 5 offices/people/docs. Of those, I found a small practice about 2 miles from our home. A front office staff person worked hard to get me in to see the doctor and completely understood why. I met the doctor and it was a really good fit.
I was so relieved it was official. Eight weeks, 20+ hours and it's done.
The Saturday after I met with the doctor I wanted to rush home and call the on-call service of our (soon to be) fired ped and tell them to copy the records. I thought better of it (they charge $15 for calls after 9pm) and called first thing Monday. Unable to get forms off their website (fail) I decided to go by there and fill out the form. I proudly, and rather largely, checked the box said we were going to a new practice. I paid my $25 (they will only copy them for free if they refer you to another doctor, whatever) and the front office person asked if I would stay and talk to the founder, because she should know.
We spoke for nearly an hour and she accepted 100% responsibility for the lack of communication about the incident (we were on the same page there). She said she dealt with it internally after she got the letter and she felt satisfied that the doctors involved acted appropriately about the situation; medically speaking.
I would have liked to talk that through, you know, because I didn't feel that way.
In her mind, it was "handled." She explained that she knew me well enough to know that she wouldn't be able to answer with a quick email or have an assistant call and that because she was working around the clock for (days and days and months and months and it was very dramatic) on a project for the practice she just didn't. She forgot. Then the other 2 times it was brought to her attention -- telling her I obviously wasn't letting this go -- she was embarrassed. But since the 3rd and 4th and 5th touchpoint I made, she'd seen us come in for care so she assumed everything was okay on my end.
Me: "Well I had to come in, the kids have been sick for weeks. I don't know any family that has special needs kids that can pick up and leave a practice without careful thought and planning. I couldn't just leave without a plan. This wasn't easy, in fact, having to do this created a hardship. Do you know how long it's taken me? I could be using my time to help my kids with their many other issues, instead of this. I clearly did not want to change, having given you 11 months."
She asked if I would reconsider. She pleaded her case well, but I had to explain that a level of trust had been broken. If she had reached out to me any time during that 11 months since the incident I would have likely stayed, instead it just festered. I told her she literally gave me no choice.
She wanted to leave the door open if things didn't work out at anytime if we are in need again for a peds office. Even if I had to change again, I wouldn't go back to the practice. We're at different places; she and I. I can't go backwards. It was good to speak my peace and when it was done and they were fired, it was good to be moving on.
I didn't realize how much it was stressing me out until I realized how good it felt when we left.
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Julia Roberts blogs at Kidneys and Eyes, Co-founded at Support for Special Needs, and she also writes at Aiming Low


  1. Wow. I can't believe they ignored your letter. Thank you for all of this. I have been thinking of changing ours ever since we got the practioner (?) (not the doctor, but more than a nurse of p.a.) for the yearly well visit. When I mentioend that I'm always wondering if we're doing enough or the right things for his autisim, her response was "well you're providing a safe, caring place for him so you got that." I didn't even think to bring it up to the doctor. She's been pretty blaise/uninterested in his autism from the get-go, so I think i just want to go. Problem is that she is a wonderful medical doctor. Has given us her home phone number, treated my other son's allergic reaction to medication in the office for 8 hours instead of sending us to the hospital, etc. What do you think of leaving one kid with her, and finding another doc for my special needs son?

    1. Can you handle going to two doctors? For me, it would add too much time to visits they could share, you know? But if you have the time, then yes, keep them separate.

      That said, I bet you could find a doctor that is equally wondering and that you're happy with for both of them!

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