Rantz: Polyclinic Seattle silent as its offices don’t answer phones, risking patients’ health
Patients have not been able to get through to staff at the Polyclinic in Seattle for weeks. And it risks jeopardizing the health and wellbeing of its patients.
Since at least early October, patients have complained on social media that they cannot reach anyone at the Polyclinic. Some say they’re calling to make necessary appointments for pressing medical issues, while others can’t get through to fulfill overdue prescriptions. Though patient bills are generated on time, some can’t even get through to ask questions about a patient statement.
“Hey @thepolyclinic, I’ve tried to make an appointment for three days with no answer and have been on hold for an hour today. Not sure I believe you’re ‘welcoming new patients,’ as your Twitter bio claims,” one patient tweeted to the Polyclinic.
“No one answers. You just sit on terminal hold,” one patient wrote on Facebook.
“Trying to reach billing services and sit on endless hold. And the ‘call-back’ option isn’t working either. Moreover, all the electronic portals for doing online payments — both of them are busted, inasmuch as there is no billing information shown for me. Jeez, I’m trying to pay my bill. It should not be this hard,” another Facebook user complained on Polyclinic’s page.
It took ten days to send a prescription
I’m a patient at the Polyclinic and have experienced unbearably long wait times. The troubles started weeks before I noticed the social media complaints.
At a recent video appointment, my doctor explained that they are understaffed and that his office would get back to me with a prescription within two days. But it took 10 days.
An email inquiry to the doctor went unanswered. I had equally bad luck for the first nine days I attempted to get through over the phone.
I called his office several times to ask if the prescription could be sent. I would be left on hold for so long that I would give up. The automated phone system offers an option to have someone call the patient when a staff member is free. I opted-in two times but never got a return call.
On Monday, I got lucky: After 41 minutes on hold, someone finally answered to help sort out the issue.
This is dangerous for patients
Spokesperson Tenzin Choephel did not respond to multiple requests for comment made over several days. They’re as difficult to reach as nurses and schedulers. But the staff I’ve spoken to as a Polyclinic patient said they are experiencing a severe staffing shortage that is impacting their workflow.
If patients can’t reach their doctor’s office to make appointments or schedule blood work, it’s clearly dangerous. What might start as a simple medical issue could spiral into something more serious because they could not make an appointment soon enough. Not being able to get reasonable care when providing blood for testing may result in the patient leaving.
It’s unclear how many departments within the Polyclinic are experiencing issues. But even departments that at least appear well-staffed to patients who visit are not answering phones.
Staff are not to blame; Polyclinic leadership is responsible.
Staffing issues post-COVID vaccine mandate is not new. And we’ve seen nurses leave after a stressful pandemic. But Polyclinic is not communicating its issues, whatever it perceives them to be, to its patients. They’re wasting patients’ time with futile efforts to connect with their doctors. And that means patients are delayed in making alternative arrangements to address whatever issues they hoped to bring to their doctors. This isn’t a way to show you put patients first.
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