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Gene Royer

Gene Royer is a staunch conservative. He is also a Policy Governance ® consultant and writer. He is the author of School Board Leadership 2000 - The Things Staff Didn't Tell You At Orientation and his international practice is based in Houston

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    by Gene Royer

    November 30, 2002

    Physician Heal Thyself

    My neighbor Dr. Haresh Patel phoned late at night frantically asking me to take him to the emergency room because he was having a heart attack. He being a physician, I had no reason not to take him seriously. I knew his wife did not drive; but knowing his family well, I dared not suggest he call an ambulance for fear he would die enroute, and they would hold me responsible. So, I dressed quickly and drove to his house to get him.

    He was in great pain, and as I drove to the hospital, Mrs Patel sat behind us chanting Hindu prayers in an accentuated high voice, while her husband responded with timely grunts that must have been their language equivalent for "Amen". I timed the traffic lights just right; and once we arrived, she rushed inside and quickly returned with a young man and a gurney. Haresh's grunts had been replaced by loud, mournful moans, and his ashen complexion bore sure witness to the gravity of his condition.

    At Mrs Patel's loud insistence, they skipped triage and went straight to ER.

    Imagine my pleasant surprise when less than twenty minutes later, he reemerged through the double doors--not on the gurney, but afoot and flanked on either side by two large, stern-faced negro orderlies. His formerly ashen complexion was now replaced by his natural, olive-tinted one, but heavily accented around the ears and throat with the redness of ire. In short, Dr. Haresh Patel was thoroughly ticked off.

    While he marched up and down, shouting and poking holes in the air with his finger, I took one of the orderlies aside and inquired as to the trouble. The orderly shrugged and said, "Dat dude be crazy, man."

    He went on to say that when the patient's EKG looked normal, they put him on the X-ray table to see if there was some kind of obstruction. And in order to take the first picture, they rolled him onto his stomach.

    And that was when it happened: No sooner had he assumed the full prone position and the first X-ray picture was taken, when Dr. Patel expelled a very, very large amount of gas.

    And that was when the second thing happened: The pain suddenly stopped.

    And so did the X-ray procedure because it sent everyone scurrying into the hallway, completely emptying the expansive examination room and effectively shutting down the job.

    "Whoo, whoo, whoo!" Said the orderly, as he grinned and histrionically fanned his face with his big hand.

    As he spoke, I glanced through the double doors' glass and saw two people in scrubs aerating the hallway with spray.

    So why was the patient so mad, I asked? Turns out it was about money.

    Of course Haresh was elated that he wasn't going to die. But he was enraged when they handed him a bill for $480--particularly since his insurance had a $500 ER deductible provision.

    When his complaints failed to soften the hearts of either the attending ER physician or the night cashier, Haresh stomped out to my car, followed by his angry wife, still chanting--albeit I suspect not prayers.

    "It is fraud," squeaked Patel, as he climbed into my car.

    "Amen," grunted Mrs Patel in Hindu.

    Just to be on the safe side, I rolled down the window on my side.

    "They did nothing to me and yet they charge me $480. I will sue."

    "Amen," she grunted again."

    I kept my eyes on the road and nodded while I casually engaged the ventilation fan.

    "It is theft by fraud," he continued. "I will sue them for fraud of omission of service." I suspected it was a legal term he made up on the spot, but I kept silent and let him rant. When we arrived at his house, they both exited in a huff without bothering to thank me, and I drove away with all windows down.

    When I got home, I told Mrs Geno what happened, and she came up with the most apt summation: She said the hospital may or may not have been guilty of "theft by fraud", but Haresh had certainly discovered the ultimate treatment for cardiac arrest: Cure by fart.

    © 2002 Tocqevillian Magazine