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My Broken Record: Communication is Important

Updated: Sep 12, 2020

I have this long convoluted COVID-related story about diagnostic imaging appointments at our cancer hospital that got cancelled and never re-booked. I feel silly typing it out because it is so ridiculous.

It involves cancelling appointments and never telling patients, telling patients you will reschedule in two weeks but never calling back, patients having to follow up but unable to access anything but a voice mail and then voice mail messages not being returned. Then appointments being rebooked six months after the original appointment and not telling me it has been rebooked until I call and call and finally speak to someone in person.

See? Ridiculous. I’m sorry you had to read that but even more sorry that this is how patients are treated in a hospital that proclaims to be patient-centred but is not. This is what Dr. Victor Montori calls the “burden of treatment” in his book Why we revolt: A patient revolution for careful and kind care.

What has happened over this pandemic is that the health care system has become more itself. If they were rotten communicators before, they will be even more rotten communicators now.

I am grateful for the staff who put themselves at risk to treat COVID-19 patients, I really am. I am not grateful for leadership and a hospital culture that continually puts patients last, despite what they say on their website.

Obviously there is some internal policy about cancelling and rescheduling appointments during COVID, but nobody has bothered to tell the patients. If you told us, I’d hanker a guess to say that we’d understand. But patients are not mind readers. If you treated patients with disdain before the pandemic, you are for sure treating them with even more disdain now.

I’d suggest since the cancer hospital typically mails me a little card wrapped in a piece of paper to tell me about my next appointment – well, you could at least send patients a letter in the mail to tell us what’s going on if you aren’t able to call or email us.

Health care is not only about medical treatment. It is about ‘do no harm’ with the emotional and mental health of patients and families too.

Leaving patients to wonder if their cancer has recurred wreaks havoc on our health. I know we are in a pandemic and you are stressed out too.

BUT JUST TELL US WHAT IS GOING ON. That’s all I ask right now.

This pandemic is the chance to finally truly improve the health care system, to align the words on your website with real-life behaviour. Please don’t squander this opportunity.


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