Careless People

I’m dealing with a local dental practice that has treated me very poorly after first saying they would help.

When my Dad was in private practice he treated people with dignity and respect. He and his partner, Dr. Hedges, weren’t perfect, but they were committed, dedicated professionals.

I remember how happy I was as a child when Dad and I would walk through a mall and have people approach him to shake his hand and thank him for his help. He worked all sorts of crazy hours and I was never bothered by that, he was off helping people.

My Dad and his colleagues made sure that one of them was always on call. Day or night, weekend or holiday, Dad and his associates always made sure their patients were covered. A mother with a baby with an earache at two in the morning would get their answering service at first, but that service had the designated doctor’s number ready to dial.

In my last few years at John Gray, part of my job was as a troubleshooter. John or Jim would talk directly to anyone with a concern and then send me out whenever it would help. There was no restriction on me on either time or money to fix a problem. My salary was considered the advertising budget as we never took ads out in magazines, newspapers, or on the radio. No need, our business was based on at least 90% referrals.

It’s easy to stop caring, to let others talk for you, to pay people to cover for you. That’s one main reason I broke my book contract, since it became obvious my editor was making excuses for his bosses who wouldn’t come forward. I feel sorry for people who have to keep their jobs by apologizing for their employers.

“They were careless people, Tom and Daisy — they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby.

Update: I am so mad with this treatment that I will name names for the first time in over five years of blog posts. This my first complaint against a business at this site. I regret posting this.

The dental practice in question is Balle and Associates.

I was told on a Friday afternoon at 4:30 PM that my follow up appointment for Tuesday of next week had been cancelled. Not postponed, mind you, but cancelled. I had been waiting three weeks for that appointment. Apparently, the doctor thought my condition needed a specialist and that there was no need for me to come back. The receptionist said I could come in for a teeth cleaning, however, there would be no consultation.

The problem is that I had other questions and that no one asked me how I felt about being cancelled before a weekend with no one to call. I had hoped to establish a relation with a local dentist and now it seems I will have to start again without this office willing to help. Meanwhile, the soreness and the pain in my mouth goes on.

My questions were:

1. Your teeth cleaning method seems interesting but I want to know if it is compatible with patients who have problem teeth. Is there any harm in using it if one has occasional pain in an area or an uncomfortable feeling from same? Your office wanted me to schedule a cleaning for next week but insisted that my consult was off. How can I go forward with a procedure when I have questions?

2. Is there a relation between frequent cleanings and avoidance of major dental work? In my experience, crowns fall off, bridge work cracks and comes apart, and teeth fail sometimes for no reason. I have had a tremendous number of cleanings yet major, painful, costly work keeps coming up. Is there any study linking cleanings to prevention of dental work?

3. What about an MRI to better understand what might be causing my occasional tooth pain? You’ve done X-rays but perhaps an MRI would give a better, deeper look.

4. I also wanted to game plan future work, as I want to know ahead of time what I need to get done and the time frame to do that work. Again, I wanted to establish a relation with a local dentist so I don’t have to fly back to San Francisco again.

I am an anxious patient but I have never contested a bill and I always pay cash out of pocket. I now find out that this practice doesn’t take calls after hours and that they have no working e-mail address to get in touch. My last e-mail just bounced. It is extremely unprofessional to cancel an appointment with such little notice or explanation. Good companies don’t work this way and they don’t allow line personnel to tell clients what the owners or managers should say for themselves.

Balle seemed nice at my first appointment but after all of this time lost and no notice I feel completely abandoned.

Monday Afternoon Update:

I’m sad to report that no one has called or e-mailed me my promised referral. I found another e-mail for them, sent them a message, and that e-mail has not bounced. Yet no word. I’ll report tomorrow on what happens. If they don’t respond then I will leave this message up as a warning to others. I’m still galled by how unprofessional this is. A total waste of three weeks.

Tuesday Afternoon Update:

With no phone call or e-mail by noon, I called their office. I didn’t want to talk on the phone because I feared I would lose my temper. The staff person didn’t know about any referral but said she would check my file. After ten minutes on hold she came up with a name and a phone number. I wish I didn’t have to force them into something they promised to do on their own.

Staff once again tried to get me in for a tooth cleaning. Cleaning yes, follow on appointment, no. I said cleaning didn’t seem to make sense while I was still having pain. I’ve often had painful, bloody cleanings. Cleaning is always an aggressive procedure. She said that they had teeth cleaning done on a variety of patients with different problems but would not address those with pain. She said the hygienist could answer my questions. Really? That’s what the dentist was supposed to do, to answer questions, approve a potentially risky procedure, and take responsibility in case something went wrong. This is all incredibly unprofessional and I continue to be angry and upset.

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