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Imagine That: No Charge For Surgery That Didn’t Happen

Many of the surgeries I do are elective. They can and should be scheduled to be convenient. It happens – God laughs at our plans or life interrupts or …..

Last week was such a time for one patient. She called, very apologetic, “Dr Bates, I need to reschedule my surgery. My father is having tests done. He hasn’t been feeling well.”

I quickly assure her that no apology is necessary. Her family comes first. I suggest we simply cancel the surgery for now until the “dust settles.” She can call me back when she is sure things are okay with her family. We’ll reschedule then.

She is still worried. “The surgery center called me today. Do I need to call them? Will I need to pay them or anesthesia or you for the canceled time?”

Again I reassure her, “No, I’ll call them and take care of canceling the surgery. No, we don’t charge you for surgery we don’t do. It happens. It’s okay to cancel surgery for whatever reason – another family member gets sick, an accident happens, you just get scared.”

It happens on both sides. Sometimes (as for me earlier this year when my mother had surgery) it’s the doctor who has to cancel or reschedule. Sometimes it’s the patient. I once had a patient not show up for surgery, only to find out later she had been in a motor vehicle accident the evening before her scheduled surgery. She turned out to be okay, but it really cemented how I fell about patients who call to cancel or reschedule. It’s okay. No need to apologize. Thank you for letting me know.

*This blog post was originally published at Suture for a Living*

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